PHOENIXVILLE - One man was arrested and a minor altercation broke out between anti-gay protesters and people demonstrating against those protesters at PRIDE Fest on Sunday.
Demonstrators remained calm throughout the day, barring a few incidents during which an anti-gay banner and anti-gay literature were torn and thrown to the ground.
Police also arrested Michael Marcavage for defiant trespass after he purposely walked into the Foundry lot, which is private property, after being asked to remain on the sidewalk. As he was handcuffed and placed into the back of a waiting patrol car, members of the Anti-Racist Action (ARA,) who demonstrated against the anti-gay protesters, began singing the 1968 Steam tune "Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Good-bye.)"
Marcavage, director of a group called Repent America, has made a career of being arrested at various demonstrations. This is his second arrest in Phoenixville, the first occurring in 2002 when he was arrested for screaming at Governor Ed Rendell in Reeves' Park. Marcavage now has a lawsuit pending against Rendell, as well as four other institutions, including the City of New York.
"I am here for the purpose of exalting the name of the Lord Jesus Christ," Marcavage said before being taken into custody. "God said that homosexuality is considered an abomination, but there is freedom from this lifestyle."
Marcavage was later released from police custody after giving a statement and being cited for defiant trespass. He returned to the sidewalk outside PRIDE Fest where he and members of ARA had a heated verbal exchange for 45 minutes.
Kathy Stayton, co-leader of Soulforce Philadelphia, an organization which preaches love and tolerance, said her group was at PRIDE Fest to "absorb some of the hateful and condemning words of Repent America."
"We want to show there is another way God shows love," she said. "We don't get into biblical debates with them, because you can find anything you want in the bible."
The non-violent group uses tactics adopted from leaders like the late Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.
Susan Starzell said she was at PRIDE Fest to "show people the sin of homosexuality," and to give them a chance to repent. She held a sign telling festival-goers to "remember Sodom and Gomorrah," ancient biblical cities destroyed by God for the sins of the residents.
Two feet away, Kim Cruze held signs reminding people to "remember the Alamo."
"Humor is better than hate," she said.
Exchanges also took place between ARA members and other religious protesters, as the ARA members intentionally blocked the signs of the anti-gay protesters, raised their voices to out-speak them as they tried to preach and yelled each time an anti-gay protester stepped on the grass surrounding the Foundry parking lot.
ARA member Jared Schultz called the anti-gay protesters Christian fascists, and said they were attempting to "push their beliefs" on anyone within arms' length.
"In our current political climate, they are a threat, and we want to stop them at a grassroots level," he said.
Jeff Ruud, of Chester County Pride, said CCP did not condone the actions of ARA.
"We do not agree with, nor did we like the way the ARA handled things," Ruud said.
Anti-gay protester Nancy Major, of Phoenixville, said she felt PRIDE Fest was an open admission and an acceptance of sin.
"I care about the lost who are celebrating sin," she said. "I would be any place they're celebrating sin, if they had an adultery pride fest, or a murderers pride fest I would be there."
Reverend Karla Fleshman, pastor of Imagi Dei Metropolitan Community Church, said she was almost at a loss for words.
"Phoenixville is such a welcoming community, and we know that these few people, don't represent Phoenixville," she said, gesturing toward the protesters. "We are grateful for the citizens and the civic leaders for supporting us in our right to celebrate freedom."