Yesterday (24 March) I spent about six hours in Taunton.
It was the day after controversial Christian street preacher Michael Overd had been convicted of a ‘hate crime’ against a ‘homosexual Christian’ complainant by Judge Shamim Qureshi at Bristol Crown Court, and I thought that it would be worth going to Taunton because there was a reasonable prospect of Mr Overd giving his first post-conviction sermon. My hunch proved correct.
Mr Overd commenced preaching in his usual location shortly before 4 pm. I photographed Mr Overd and observed the reactions of both local traders and the general public.
Local traders took a keen interest in Mr Overd’s presence, with several looking out of windows and doors, watching and listening.
As for the general public, the vast majority passed him by without any noticeable reaction. I saw no evidence of Mr Overd’s presence serving to deter anybody from entering any of the nearby shops. Most people seemed not to mind him at all.
The reactions of only two people really stood out. One of these was a gentleman who approached Mr Overd in what appeared to me to be an aggressive manner – ‘getting in Mr Overd’s face’, so to speak – and who then proceeded to call the police on his mobile phone to report Mr Overd for some perceived ‘hate crime’. At no point did this gentleman have any interest in engaging in civilised conversation about his concerns with Mr Overd. I was very close to this particular incident, and I asked the gentleman if he was on his phone to the police, and he confirmed that it was so. I overheard some of what the gentleman said during his telephone call; his complaint was about something Mr Overd said about Mohammed. At no point did I hear the gentleman identify himself as a Muslim; it may be reasonable to infer from this omission that he is not.
In complete contrast, another gentleman approached Mr Overd and engaged him in conversation for several minutes – causing Mr Overd to abandon amplified preaching in order to focus on the one-to-one discussion – at the end of which the two concluded their conversation with a handshake, and the enquiring gentleman departed with a free information booklet given him by Mr Overd.
Before I encountered Mr Overd preaching in Taunton town centre yesterday, I spent some time going about Taunton, interacting with various people on the street and inside premises.
Before and during Mr Overd’s preaching, I questioned two store managers and two shop employees (four people from four different businesses).
One of these sources said, “Last year the police came round promising to get rid of him [Mr Overd] and asking everybody to help them.”
I have e-mailed the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Constabulary to ask for comment on the police efforts to “get rid” of Mr Overd, and I have yet to receive a response.
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and tagged 'Hate crime'
, Avon and Somerset Constabulary
, Chief Constable
, Freedom of Speech
, Michael Overd
, Mike Overd
, Richard Carvath
, Street preacher
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