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ELEVEN CHRISTIANS ARRESTED, JAILED, AND CHARGED
UNDER HATE CRIMES LEGISLATION 10/11/04
PHILADELPHIA – On Sunday, October 10, 2004, eleven Christians with the Philadelphia-based Repent America were arrested, jailed, and charged under hate crimes legislation during an evangelistic outreach at the annual “OutFest” homosexual pride event held in the public streets of Philadelphia.
The six men and five women representing Repent America approached the event and were immediately confronted with unlawful opposition by a group of homosexuals. This group, the “Pink Angels”, was formed by homosexual attorney Chuck Volz, a senior adviser to Philly Pride Presents, organizers of the annual OutFest event which receives $22,500 yearly from the City of Philadelphia. The “Pink Angels” blocked access to Repent America by forming a human chain, refusing to allow the Christians to walk down the public sidewalk. Police intervened shortly thereafter, escorting Repent America through the human blockade.
While on the public sidewalk and street inside the event, Repent America began to open-air preach with the use of Scripture banners, and to distribute Gospel literature, as members of the “Pink Angels” blew loud whistles and carried large signs alongside the Christians to block their message and their access to the event attendees, while others screamed obscenities. The police refused to take action as the Christians were continuously followed, obstructed, and harassed.
Repent America obeyed all laws, and even the unlawful requests, to move by the Philadelphia Civil Affairs police officers in an effort of cooperation. Regardless of Repent America’s compliance, Chief James Tiano, head of the Civil Affairs Unit, without warning, ordered the arrests of the Christians and hauled them off to jail, where they spent 21 hours, before being released the following day. Ten Christians were individually charged with three felonies and five misdemeanors, while a teenager with the group was charged with a misdemeanor.
“This is one of the most remarkable and unlawful actions by police that I have ever witnessed. Their blatant disregard of the law by allowing hecklers to impede our way, block our message, and then arrest us, is inexcusable, especially by police officers who are specially trained to protect civil rights,” stated Michael Marcavage, director of Repent America. “Christians are now being labeled as ‘haters’ and any speech that homosexuals perceive to be intimidating, such as our Christian witness at OutFest, makes them a prime target for “˜hate crimes legislation’,” Marcavage continued.
The three felonies and five misdemeanors include: Criminal Conspiracy (Felony), Possession of Instruments of Crime (Misdemeanor), Reckless Endangerment of Another Person (Misdemeanor), Ethnic Intimidation (Felony), Riot (Felony), Failure to Disperse (Misdemeanor), Disorderly Conduct (Misdemeanor), and Obstructing Highways (Misdemeanor). “We are clearly ‘not guilty’ of these crimes, and with the help of our video footage, we shall be vindicated of these trumped up charges,” Marcavage concluded.
The Christians were arraigned on October 18, 2004 in the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center.