We are being harassed, says street preacher threatened with arrest

Five police officers confronted Pastor Dwayne Lopez.(Photo: YouTube)

A street preacher threatened with arrest in London has said he feels harassed and persecuted by the police.

Pastor Dwayne Lopez, who is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre (CLC), was confronted by five police officers while preaching on Uxbridge High Street after a complaint by a member of the public.

He was told that a possible "hate crime" relating to "homophobia" had been committed, and was asked if he was aware of the Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) in place on the high street. PSPOs are sets of regulations introduced by local councils usually covering anti-social behaviour. 

In the exchange, captured on video and uploaded to YouTube, Lopez was threatened with arrest unless he gave his personal details. 

"Currently there's allegations of a hate crime, a public order offence, section 4a [and] allegations of homophobia," an officer said.

"I've not heard anything, I'm not saying I've heard anything. Someone's called us. It might be completely untrue or true.

"[But] if I do walk away and I see offences, and the victim wants to press charges ... I could have failed a potential victim."

Later, an officer tells him: "If you don't give me your name or address I have grounds to arrest you. It's code of practice."

Lopez denied committing a hate crime and said that he had simply been preaching from the Bible. The exchange ends after Lopez gives his personal details to the officers.

According to the CLC, under UK law, a street preacher does not have to provide their details to the police "but officers often ask for it, or even demand it".

Speaking about his experience later, Lopez said that it was "not an isolated incident" and that "the police are persistently harassing us for preaching from the Bible in this area of London". 

He said his treatment at the hands of the police was "unjust". 

"The Bible is not a banned book. When King Charles was crowned last year, he swore an oath on the Bible, a book which we are now being repeatedly punished for preaching from. We preach the simple message that we are all sinners and that love, forgiveness and hope is found in Jesus," he said. 

"Our message is not a hateful message. People will always be offended by something, but being offended is not a crime. We want the police to support us now instead of using the PSPO to persecute us."

He added, "The PSPO in Uxbridge is designed to intimidate us, shut us down and to prevent us from exercising our rights and freedoms. This is not about amplification, but the offence of the Cross." 

CLC chief executive Andrea Williams has called for a "re-think" of PSPOs to protect freedom of expression for street preachers. 

"The Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) in place in Uxbridge is being weaponised to shut down perfectly lawful activity," she said.

"People are being taken off the streets for preaching from the Bible just because passers-by say they are offended.

"This amounts to a heckler's veto and fundamentally undermines the freedoms we take for granted in this country. This should be a warning to us all. It is time to re-think the PSPOs."