Ron Strom is commentary editor of WND, a post he took after serving as a news editor since 2000. Prior to coming on board with WND, Strom worked in politics in California. Married and the father of two homeschool graduates, he has served in leadership positions in his church, local nonprofit boards and in county government.More ↓Less ↑
A documentary filmmaker who happened to be interviewing the leader of 11 Christian protesters on the day they were arrested at an outdoor homosexual event in Philadelphia says the extent of the charges against five of the people – which could lead to 47 years in prison – amounted to a “Christian Rodney King” scenario.
As WorldNetDaily reported, on Oct. 10, the group was “preaching God’s Word” to a crowd of people attending the Philadelphia event and displaying banners with biblical messages.
After a confrontation with a group called the Pink Angels, described by protesters as “a militant mob of homosexuals,” the Christians were arrested and spent a night in jail.
Eight charges were filed: criminal conspiracy, possession of instruments of crime, reckless endangerment of another person, ethnic intimidation, riot, failure to disperse, disorderly conduct and obstructing highways.
None of the Pink Angels was cited or arrested.
After a preliminary hearing in December, Judge William Austin Meehan ordered four of the Christians to stand trial on three felony and five misdemeanor charges. If convicted, they could each get a maximum of 47 years in prison. One female teenage protester faces charges in the juvenile justice system.
Right place at the right time
Mike Shaw and his partner, Geoff Callan, operate Enough Said Productions in San Francisco. Shaw says he had no prior connection to the protest group from Repent America, but simply wanted to interview its leader, Michael Marcavage, for a documentary he was working on about same-sex marriage protests in California.
“Repent America came to San Francisco protesting what was going on with same-sex marriage,” Shaw told WND. He says he contacted Marcavage to see if he might interview him and find out more about the organization. “We just wanted to have an understanding about who these people were.”
The weekend Shaw and Callan flew to Philadelphia happened to be the same weekend Repent America had planned to protest the homosexual “OutFest” event.
“So here we are to film [Marcavage] so he can have his voice over his actions in San Francisco on our documentary,” Shaw explained. “We didn’t want our piece to be one-sided, so we figured they’d be a good fit in our documentary.”
Shaw said he began filming Marcavage in his truck while the activist was driving to Outfest in Philadelphia. Marcavage explained to the filmmaker what Repent America does in calling people to turn from their sinful lifestyles, as they did in the San Francisco protest.
“He had a wireless microphone on him,” he said. “We got out of the car, and the rest of what happened is on the videotape.
“Since Michael had a wireless on him, I just sat on the side and zoomed in, capturing the conversation.”
Shaw’s videotape of the confrontation, which is available online, was used by the protesters’ lawyers during the preliminary hearing. There likely would not have been a taped record of the Christians’ arrest had Shaw not have been in Philadelphia to interview Marcavage.
“The footage is telling the truth,” he explained. “It’s very unbiased because we were not there for Repent America in the sense that we were trying to help them.”
Despite Shaw’s presence at the protest as an objective filmmaker, he says police tried to arrest him.
“They tried to arrest me and say I was an accomplice,” he said. “I held up my ID and said, ‘We’re from San Francisco.’
“We come from the gayest city in America,” Shaw said. “Why would we go there to go after these people at their OutFest?”
Shaw says he almost didn’t make it out without being arrested.
“I had one foot in the paddy wagon,” he said. “They were making me take my camera and headphones off” before finally being given a reprieve.
The filmmaker said he was surprised the protesters were charged with so many criminal counts.
“I’ve seen a lot of people from where we’re from do a lot worse things and get in a lot less trouble,” he said. “Everyone thought they’d just get a slap on the wrist.”
He also mentioned how quickly the protesters were arrested, saying it was only 35 minutes from the time they left their cars until they were on the way to jail.
“They didn’t really even get set up,” he said. “The other side [the Pink Angels] was so ready for them. … They didn’t even get a whole song finished” before the conflict began. Besides quoting the Bible, Repent America protesters sing Christian songs at protests.
Shaw says he had to pick up the protesters’ signs after they were hauled away and try to get them back to them.
After the protesters were released from jail the next morning, Shaw met up with Marcavage and filmed him as he found out about how many felony charges he was facing.
“He was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is huge,’” Shaw said.
That’s when the filmmaker decided to offer the tape as evidence in court. He also decided to make a separate documentary about the arrests of the protesters.
“We’re fixing the audio levels and putting out a documentary,” he said.
Shaw says he sees the arrest as a “Christian Rodney King.”
“They didn’t get hit physically,” he said, “they got hit by the extent of the charges against them. … When I saw the charges and the 47 years I was like, ‘Wow.’”
Shaw said he thought the whole situation odd because the homosexuals were not the minority, as they are used to.
“They were the majority” he told WND. “I think there was some hostility and people venting because they had the numbers. … They didn’t want anyone ruining their day.”
Shaw says he was happy to offer the video to the arrestees.
“The footage speaks for itself,” he emphasized. “You make the call. We kept it rolling.”