A black Christian street preacher who was arrested for breach of the peace and had his Bible confiscated has been offered £2,500 in compensation by the Metropolitan Police in London.
The arrest of Oluwole Ilesanmi, showing him asking police “don’t take my Bible away”, has been viewed online three million times.
This week, he will hand a petition to the Home Office, signed by nearly 40,000 people, asking for greater protection of street preachers.
Ilesanmi was arrested outside Southgate Tube station in February after a 999 call claiming that he had been “Islamophobic” and insulted Muslims.
In the video of the arrest, the preacher is seen telling police: “Jesus is on his way.” A police officer replies: “I appreciate that, but nobody wants to listen to that. they want you to go away.” When the street preacher attempts to keep hold of his Bible, the officer says: “You should’ve thought about that before being racist.”
In response to the wrongful arrest, the Met said: “We respect freedom of speech. However, if the language someone uses is perceived as being a potential hate crime, it is only right that we investigate.”
The black street preacher has the support of the Christian Legal Centre which says it has helped more than two hundred Christian street preachers who are being “silenced and penalised” by police across the UK.
Chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, Andrea Williams, is also writing to Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan police chief, who is also a lesbian, citing concerns that police officers are too quick to silence street preachers thereby damaging religious freedom and freedom of speech as a result.
She claims that police are assuming, wrongly, that if a member of the public is “offended” by a sermon, a criminal offence has been committed and that street preachers are not allowed to say that other religions or homosexuality are wrong.