A group of Christian street preachers were arrested by police after they reportedly shouted: ‘All Muslims will burn in hell’ and ‘You need to obey God.’
The men were also heard shouting, ‘Allah does not exist’ and called people ‘disgusting’ for being gay, divorced or living in ‘sin’, according to witnesses.
The group, which attracted an angry crowd of shoppers in Bristol city centre, have been backed by the California-based Christian group Cross Encounters Ministries.
Officers were called after they allegedly refused to stop the controversial demonstration on Wednesday and four men in their fifties and sixties were arrested.
They have been released on bail until later this month.
In a video filmed by a witness, a man who gives his name as Michael, can be heard telling a hostile group of shoppers: ‘The purpose is to worship God.
‘I have some sympathy for you sinners, but the purpose of mankind is to worship God.
‘You need to obey God and obey his commands.
‘I hated his commands once, just like you do, and I remember what that mind-frame is – it is like banging your head against a brick wall.’
A police officer then approaches him and says: ‘Alright mate, look, you are causing a disturbance now. You are not welcome.’
It prompts the angry crowd to chant: ‘Go home, go home, go home,’ at the men.
He asks the preacher’s name and the man replies ‘Michael’ but refuses to reveal his surname.
Michael then says he will not leave the area – the Broadmead shopping district in central Bristol – and the officer warns him that he will be arrested if he fails to do so.
The preacher then begins to shout about ‘love’ and is taken away by the officer with his hands behind his back – to the delight of the cheering crowd.
Shoppers start clapping, whistling and shouting ‘woo’ as a PCSO says he will be seizing some of the preacher’s demonstration boards.
The men have received support from the Cross Encounters Ministries, which aims to ‘proclaim the gospel, disciple believers, and assist churches to do the same’.
A post on its Facebook page reads: ‘I have received word that Mike Overd, Mike Stockwell, Don Karns, and Adrian Clark have been arrested while open-air preaching in Bristol.
‘I’ve also received word the brothers are rejoicing and singing hymns in their cell(s). Yes, pray for these our brothers in this time of momentary light affliction.
‘Pray also for churches and Christians in England that they will not cower and turn their backs on these bold men of God.’
The page later added: ‘The men arrested in Bristol are indeed very dear friends of mine, with whom I recently served on the streets of London.
‘They are all exceptional men of God and fine public preachers who have my FULL support.
‘However, they are not “members” of Cross Encounters Ministries. Each of the men represent their own ministries and churches.’
Avon and Somerset Constabulary confirmed that four men were arrested following the incident on Wednesday, at around 2pm.
A spokesman said: ‘Avon and Somerset Police received a number of calls complaining about four men who were speaking in Broadmead, Bristol at lunch time on Wednesday 5 July.
‘Their comments were allegedly anti-Islamic and homophobic and people told us they were told people were feeling harassed, alarmed and distressed. Callers also told us that a crowd of around 50 people were there and they were concerned for the men’s safety.
‘Officers attended and asked the four men to disperse. They did not do so and shortly afterwards they were arrested for racially/religiously aggravated public order offences.
‘A 51-year-old man from Bristol, a 50-year-old man from New York and two men from Taunton aged 52 and 63 were later released on police bail pending further enquiries.’