GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - A verbal confrontation between a Bible-quoting man and participants at a Gay Day event on August 4 has prompted an investigation by the Grand Rapids police.
At Cherry Park near Cherry and Eastern, a group of men stood outside a fence where the event was being held. Verbally, they went back and forth with women participating in the event.
In a video of the encounter, a young man quotes Isaiah from the Bible and used their interpretation to proceed to tell the women why they deserved to be raped:
"' Their children shall also be dashed to pieces before their eyes. Their houses shall be spoiled and their wives ravaged.' What does ravaged mean? It means we're going to rape your ass and I'ma have fun doing that s---. And you gonna like that. I promise you."
Grand Rapids police responded to the initial incident at the park, but the protesters were gone by the time they arrived. Authorities got no indication at that time from participants that any threats were made against an individual.
But they launched their investigation after seeing the video posted on YouTube . They are interviewing witnesses and will try to determine if their actions were a crime or a form of free speech.
Dani Vilella, the president of the Grand Rapids chapter of the National Organization for Women , hopes the police and the city continue to pursue this case.
"Organizationally in our opinion, when you cross that line from even name calling, when you cross over that line into saying, 'I am going to do something to you that is violent and criminal in nature,' that's verbal assault, that's threats," she said. "That's not free speech at that point."
She said the evidence and the threat is clear and criminal.
"Not only were they calling women property, they were insulting women's bodies. They were threatening us with sexual violence and death," she said. "It definitely didn't look like free speech to me."
Cooley Law School professor Curt Benson said a factor in the police investigation is that a fence separates the protester from the woman, so there is not any reason to believe he could carry out the threat.
But, he said, "To the extent that he's threatening to rape a woman, that constitutes hate speech under the statute. And I think there is something there for the prosecutor to consider whether or not to bring charges, assuming they identify this clown."
He added this does fall within hate speech guidelines because gender is a protected class.
After the police investigation is complete, they'll pass it on to the Kent County prosecutor who will decide whether to charge anyone criminally. Prosecutors, however, told 24 Hour News 8 this may fall into the jurisdiction of Grand Rapids City Attorney Catherine Mish.
She has been in contact with the GRPD and is aware of the investigation.
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