Monday, April 10, 2006
Help Me Howard: Street Preach
The word of God. You might have heard of it. And if you head down to South Beach you will hear it from street preachers. If they are not in jail. One group says they were arrested for trying to spread the word. Is that legal? That's why they called Help Me Howard With Patrick Fraser.
WSVN--If you have ever been to South Beach. You might have seen him.
Micah: "What is sin? Sin is breaking gods commandments."
He calls himself Micah. A street preacher who is joined each week by his wife Elizabeth -- who videotapes him spreading the word.
Micah: "We love people and we want to warn people of the danger that awaits them."
No problem with that...
Micah: "The bible says fornicators and drunkerds shall not inherit the kingdom of god."
But to grab attention from the beach crowd, Micah sometimes puts on a show.
"Are you checking me out...are you checking me out...are you a homosexual?"
The public tongue lashings interest some people, amuse others.
And irritate a few...
Micah: "You know everybody knows Tupac is in hell."
"Just remember that Jesus was tolerant. Jesus was tolerant."
Micah is not deterred.
Micah: "We believe its the word of God..we believe its infallible."
But some business owners on the beach don't believe the street preacher is infallible.
They have called the police time and time again to complain about where he preaches and the tone he uses.
As the video shot by Elizabeth shows, in most cases, the Miami Beach Police treat them well.
"I do respect your First Amendment right... but when you guys send out your message could you keep in mind that they are children."
But over the last few months, a few officers are clearly tired of seeing him. This one showed it by shining a light into the camera that was recording an officer.
Micah: "Shining light in camera...that's not right, officer, you shoudn't do that."
Finally in March, as the tape shows, two officers walked up and arrested Micah.
Sister Elizabeth: "Why are you taking him to jail? Because he is disturbing the normal flow of business?"
Micah: "I was charged with disorderly conduct."
As Elizabeth videotaped the arrest the officer told her to stop..
'"Do me a favor can you turn off your camera?"
Sister Elizabeth: "No."
"Well I am impounding that tape as evidence...I am impounding that tape as evidence."
When Elizabeth kept the camera rolling, she was arrested and taken to jail.
Sister Elizabeth: "I was charged with tampering with evidence and resisting arrest without violence."
Both believe they are being targeted; because they were preaching the Word of God.
Sister Elizabeth: "It seems like free speech is free as long as people agree with what you say."
But do they have a right to preach on the beach, in their forceful way?
Micha: "You get drunk you are a drunkard...shame on you."
Ok, Howard...time to spread the legal word.
Howard Finkelstein: "In America you have a right to say just about anything you want. Micah's message and it's tone are perfectly legal. However, if the police can show that he was creating a disturbance, or blocking traffic, that's another story. And the police can arrest him. That's why the videotape will be important in court."
And speaking of the videotape, was it illegal for Elizabeth to record the arrest?
Howard Finkelstein: "Absolutely not. She had a right to stand on the sidewalk and tape, and the officer had no right to ask her to turn that camera off. However, he can confiscate the tape because it would prove whether or not Micah commited a crime and police acted properly."
And the state attorney agreed. All the charges against Elizabeth were dropped. Micah will soon have his day in court, but before that plans to have many more days preaching on Miami Beach.
Micah: "Really all we want to see come of it...we just want to have the right to preach the bible publically without being harrassed unnecessarily."
Patrick Fraser: "Now, I spoke to Miami Beach police...they say they got a 911-call that Micah was yelling anti-homosexual comments on Lincoln Road. When the officers arrived, they say that the comments were causing a disturbance. As Howard said, the words are legal, but causing a disturbance is a whole nother matter."
Preaching about a problem and its falling on deaf ears? Don't let the arresting situation irritate you. Contact us. Hopefully our solution will save you alot of headaches.
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