A bearded man who calls himself “Philly Jesus” says he was handcuffed and forcibly removed from the city’s largest church on Tuesday after he showed up at the installation mass for Philadelphia’s new archbishop.
Footage captured from the incident shows Michael Dennis Grant — a.k.a. Philly Jesus — sitting on a curb between three police officers outside the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. He appears to be wearing a white robe and his hands are held behind his back.
Grant can be heard asking for his lawyer while a nearby police officer tells him he’s going to be cited for trespassing.
“I forgive you for trespassing against me,” Philly Jesus said.
Grant says he was kicked out of the church after making his way to the front of the cathedral where new archbishop Nelson Perez was being installed, CBS Philadelphia reports. Officers told Grant to leave and he refused, citing freedom of religious expression.
“They took me, they dragged my feet,” Grant told CBS. “Took my ankles and dragged my hands like military-style like I was a terrorist. I was so embarrassed. All I did was sit in front of the Holy Sacrament.”
Grant was reportedly given a citation for the incident. It’s not his first run-in with police, as he was arrested for trespassing at an Apple store in 2016 and for accepting money to take photos back in 2014.
He told NBC 10 that he tries to uphold the values of Jesus, although he doesn’t necessarily need a church to find that path.
“Even though I don’t identify as any particular denomination in the body of Christ, I am a sincere child of Christ,” he told NBC 10.
Grant says he went into the church because he was curious about the ceremony he saw unfolding. He made his way to the front because he saw others wearing white robes like his own, and he wanted to ask questions about what was happening.
“They were just hating on me,” Grant said, before citing a line from the Bible. “Jesus said, ‘If the world hates you, remember it hated me first.’”
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