Known as "Philly Jesus" for his Christ-like clothing, beard, and long hair, Michael Grant has become a fixture in Philadelphia's LOVE Park, site of the famous "LOVE" sculpture.
Alas, Philadelphia police apparently weren't feeling the love for Philly Jesus. Grant was arrested Friday while ice skating at the park's new rink, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer. Grant was charged with disorderly conduct and failure to disperse.
Pray tell, what led to Grant's arrest?
Accused of Soliciting Tips
Grant's lawyer told the Inquirer that Grant was taking photographs with people in the park -- as he has been for months -- when he was contacted by police for allegedly soliciting tips.
Grant, who explained on his @PhillyJesus Twitter profile that he accepts tips but does not solicit them, believes the police officer recognized him from his days as a drug-addicted panhandler. Although Grant insists he is drug-free now, his record includes arrests for theft, loitering, and possession of marijuana.
Officers reportedly asked Grant to leave the park -- an order his lawyer characterized as "an unlawful order to leave a public park." Grant refused the police order and got arrested; he was released on Friday evening but vowed to fight the charges in court.
In Grant's defense, his lawyer told the Inquirer that Philly Jesus was "simply exercising his First Amendment right of speech."
Disorderly conduct laws vary by state, but they generally cover a wide variety of socially disfavored behavior, such as being drunk in public, loitering, or disturbing the peace. Under Pennsylvania law, disorderly conduct can include engaging in fighting or other violent behavior, making unreasonable noise, using obscene language or gestures, or creating a hazardous or physically offensive condition "which serves no legitimate purpose of the actor."
Under Pennsylvania law, disorderly conduct is a summary offense, punishable by up to 90 days in jail. However, disorderly conduct can be charged as a third-degree misdemeanor if the person persists in the conduct after reasonable warning or request to desist. A conviction under of a third-degree misdemeanor can result in a sentence of up to one year in jail.
- Ice skating Jesus arrested at Love Park (UPI)
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- Protest Arrests: When Free Speech Becomes Disorderly Conduct (FindLaw's Blotter)