It seems like the arrest of Philadelphia's Michael Grant, a.k.a. #phillyjesus, has gone viral. Gee,
who knew that would happen?
I'm not really a fan of religion. It doesn't jive with my hippie upbringing. What I am a fan of is a man who managed to recover from two of the most horribly addictive substances - heroin and crack cocaine - and attempts to inspire others to do the same. How he got there isn't relevant.
While the city's most unfortunate have been lining the streets in growing numbers, as the weather gets colder and less hospitable, so, it seems have our civil servants. Despite those who panhandle for change by holding doors, those who walk through train cars in military fatigues asking for money, Grant entertains and occasionally inspires.
According to Grant, who frequently poses with visitors, he doesn't ask for money but he does accept "tips." After a free skate at Dilworth Park's new rink, Grant went to the aptly named LOVE Park to do what he does: spread his notion of the gospel and pose for pictures.
This apparently enraged one Philadelphia police officer, one who, as Grant claims, has had it out for him since his days of crime and drug abuse. Grant was arrested for disorderly conduct and failure to disperse after refusing to leave the park. Handcuffed and escorted to the officer's patrol car, Grant served less than two hours behind bars.
It's hard to imagine a reasonable arrest, even if what he does is technically illegal. Actors are routinely fined in Hollywood and New York City for illegally impersonating trademarked characters in exchange for "tips." But Jesus Christ isn't a trademark nor is Philadelphia a Hollywood overrun with Batguy and Elmert.
Attorney Charles Gibbs has decided to represent Grant. While Gibbs has made no bones about grandstanding, already using the on-the-nose word, "crucified," I doubt Grant actually faces any enforceable charges.
What's perhaps most offensive is the police officer's tactic. In an era in which one can go from a nobody to an accidental anti-celebrity with the click of a phone, I don't understand why police officers aren't better versed in handling potentially newsworthy situations with the utmost professionalism.
I'm certainly not saying individuals like Grant should be given a free pass for illegal activity, but when that same activity is ignored in countless others soliciting throughout the city, step back and think, "is it worth it?"