Two radically opposed forces met in LOVE Park this weekend: Philly Jesus and the Black Israelites.
The Black Israelites came to a new location Saturday — LOVE Park — to preach their ideology at high volume through loudspeakers.
“I walked past them and they called me a white devil out of nowhere,” said Philly Jesus, whose real name is Mike Grant, a Christian who pays tribute to his faith by dressing as Jesus and speaking to passersby about God.
“I’m next to the ‘love,’ sign, where it’s multicultural. I accept everyone for who they are, just like Jesus would, and they’re out there preaching hate. It shows the contrast between the evil and the good,” Philly Jesus observed.
While Philly Jesus first stayed away, he saw teenagers start trying to shout down the Black Israelites, and decided to intervene.
“I went to say, just hold up your peace sign. Don’t waste your energy and your voice by shouting at them, because it’s just like talking to a wall,” he said. “I stood there for a couple hours, just holding the peace sign up. If anybody came up screaming, I just went, ‘Shhh.'”
“Very calmly, in between the pauses on the microphone, I would say, ‘Yo, I love you.'”
The black Israelites read from the Bible during their speeches, but Philly Jesus disputed their interpretation.
“It’s not about skin color. It says in the Bible, Galatians 3:28: ‘There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.'”
Philly Jesus said he will organize a response if the black Israelites return.
The black Israelites are members of the Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge, based in Upper Darby.
They wear black robes and Stars of David, and are known for their racist, misogynistic, and hateful speeches directed at everyone not part of their cult, usually at top volume in front of The Shops at Liberty Place.
The Shops sued to have them removed but lost on First Amendment grounds. They have installed bike racks where the Israelites usually preach, and also hired a DJ to bump pop music over their speeches.