MICHAEL GRANT, the ex-drug addict who found Jesus and decided to dress like him, has made headlines again - this time with a big assist from the Philadelphia Police Department.
Grant, 28, a/k/a "Philly Jesus," was arrested Friday in LOVE Park for disorderly conduct and failure to disperse.
"Man known as Philly Jesus arrested after walking on water," read the Daily Mail's Saturday headline, referring to Grant's trip to Dilworth Plaza's ice-skating rink before the arrest.
The Internet reacted as if the police officer had buffed a Kurt Vile mural, with Grant's supporters tweeting their outrage under the #FreePhillyJesus hashtag.
Yesterday, Kellan White, state chapter co-director of the progressive New Leaders Council, started a Change.org petition asking District Attorney Seth Williams to drop the "inflammatory and false charges."
Grant, a heroin addict turned social-media junkie, is known for strolling down Broad Street with a giant cross on wheels, or baptizing the occasional tourist in the LOVE Park fountain. He says he doesn't ask for money, but accepts tips.
After his arrest, Grant retained attorney Charles Gibbs, who has been described by the Philadelphia Tribune as a "lawyer for the high-powered."
"This is a young man who walks around the city dressed up as Jesus, and for the government in any way to interfere with his right to practice his religion is ludicrous," said Gibbs, who has known Grant for years and is a family friend.
Gibbs said the cop who arrested Grant may have recognized him from his drug-using days and told him to leave the park. Grant has several prior arrests. He was taken away in handcuffs when he refused to leave.
"He's not actively looking for money. And even if he was, we have people all over our city soliciting money and they are not getting arrested for that," he said. "He was taking pictures for people and talking about his religious beliefs. To have the government crucify him for that is insane."
As for Christians who might be upset about Grant impersonating the son of God, Gibbs said they should lighten up:
"I think those people need to really just take a step back and check themselves. Mr. Grant is very clear that he is dressed as Jesus. He doesn't believe he's Jesus Christ resurrected, just as a guy sitting in a mall doesn't believe he's Santa Claus."