Petition seeks legal protection for street preachers

A petition campaign has been launched in the United Kingdom urging the home secretary to protect street preachers from law enforcement.

It’s a response to the arrest of Nigerian preacher Oluwole Ilesanmi, who was arrested by police and driven miles away to be dropped off without a means to return home.

The police deny that’s what happened, but evidence assembled by Christian Concern .

 this month that officers arrested Ilesanmi on Feb. 23 to “prevent a breach of the peace,” prompting a review by the Professional Standards Unit of the Metropolitan Police.

He was arrested in front of Southgate subway station in north London. But a video showed no evidence of the officers’ claims of a breach.

the officers told Ilesanmi nobody wanted to hear him so he had to shut up and go away.

He didn’t, so they arrested him,

See video of the incident:

The video was posted by Twitter user EyeOnAntisemitism, who explained: “The police told him it’s because public had said he was being islamophobic. We have the full video and wondered when preaching was now illegal.”

Christian Concern now has launched .

The law “rightly protects freedom of speech, even if it offends, shocks or disturbs others.”

“But too often, police officers have shown themselves either to be ignorant of this freedom, or unwilling to uphold it. This leads to a chilling effect, where people are increasingly unwilling to say what they believe, for fear of arrest.”

The petition seeks training for police officers so that they “act within the law.”

Ilesanmi had been accosted by a Muslim activist shortly before the video, according to Barnabas Fund.

“The man was loudly abusive about the Bible and God with his face close to the preacher’s. The young man also threatened the preacher, brandishing a closed fist holding prayer beads,” the report said.

A new video has been released on the dispute:

Christian Concern said there are several problems with the official police account, including their claim of breach of peace.

“It is clear from the video that there is no-one whose peace in being breached,” the organization said.

Further, police claimed that the preacher was walked “approx. 200m” and then released. But  then they changed their story to say he was driven 3.5 miles to Hadley Wood, where officers released him after having checked he had a bank card on which to purchase bus travel home.

However, Christian Concern found that police actually took him more than five miles away, to Wrotham Park, and left him without a bank card. He then was able to board a bus only through the generosity of another passenger who paid his fare.

The organization posted images to document their explanation.

The “police story” was “not the truth,” the organization said.

“Oluwole was not taken to Hadley Wood. He was taken to Wrotham Park which is some distance away from Hadley Wood and is outside the London Transport zone. He had an Oyster card with him which was not accepted on the bus. He is clear that he did not have a bank card on him when the police searched him. Bank cards are in any case not accepted on the 84 Metro Line bus which he eventually caught. Furthermore, there are no ATMs anywhere near the place where the police left him,” Christian Concern said.

“Oluwole had to work out where he was with his smart phone and then catch a bus back to High Barnet. When a bus came, he was told that his Oyster card was not accepted on this bus. He explained that he had been dropped there by the police and asked how he was going to get back. The driver asked him to leave the bus. He said that a passenger would help him, whereupon a passenger did volunteer to pay his £2 bus fare in cash. He still has the ticket which validates his account of what happened.”

The European Convention on Human Rights recognizes freedom of religion and expression, which includes the freedom to impart information and ideas without interference by a public authority.

And Christian Concern said it hopes “God will use the exposure of police practice from the arrest of street preacher Oluwole to force a change in police practice and to challenge their integrity in telling the press what happened.”