Damon Atkins, a self-proclaimed Christian “street preacher,” was arrested on June 6 while protesting an LGBTQ Pride event in Reading, Pennsylvania. Atkins was initially charged with “disorderly conduct, engaged in fighting.” However, following a review of video evidence, the Berks County District Attorney’s Office announced that the charges had been dropped.
Atkins’ arrest attracted controversy, with Berks County Commissioner Christian Leinbach suggesting that the city of Reading and its police department could be exposed to legal action over what he believed was an “unlawful” arrest.
The video footage, captured by Matthew Wear, a resident of Reading, showed Atkins interacting with Sgt. Bradley McClure while citing Bible verses to the event attendees, who reportedly included drag queens and children. Atkins maintained that he was on public property, a point that Sgt. McClure agreed with.
According to the video, Atkins held a sign that read “Jesus said go and sin no more,” and shouted phrases like “God cares!” to the crowd. Sgt. McClure can be heard asking Atkins to respect the attendees. In response, Atkins points to his sign, asserting that he is showing respect.
The video then shows Sgt. McClure walking away before turning back to Atkins, who had begun to recite a Bible verse. At this point, the officer moves to arrest Atkins.
In an interview with CBN News after the event, Atkins expressed gratitude for the support he has received. He explained that his controversial comment about people cheering him on from hell was a reference to a parable from Luke 16:19-31.
He also insisted that his presence at the event was not motivated by hatred. “I love my neighbor as Lord Jesus has taught me to love myself. That’s why I was there,” Atkins stated.