PORTLAND, Ore. — At least six Christians were attacked with a cleansing agent on Wednesday while preaching the gospel and standing for life outside of a Planned Parenthood facility in Portland, Oregon, but the man who committed with the act was not arrested and was let go without charges.
The pro-life outreach was part of the Biblical Church Evangelism Conference hosted by Beaverton Grace Bible Church and organized by its pastor, Chuck O’Neal.
As over 20 Christians stood on the public sidewalk to proclaim the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ through preaching and the holding of signs, a man who is believed to have brought a woman to the facility began yelling at the Christians and then blanketed half of dozen of them with scouring powder.
“Somewhere he got ahold of a very large canister of Comet and then he came around the building and went to one of our ladies and pronounced her ‘scum’ and doused her with this can of Comet head to toe,” O’Neal told Christian News Network. “He continued down the line … and he said, ‘And you, and you, and you ,’ pronouncing them all scum and shaking out Comet on each one.”
When O’Neal was told by other participants what was taking place, he went to talk to the man, but was likewise blanketed with scouring powder.
“I approached the man, and he proceeded to douse me with the Comet as well, getting it in my eyes and on my clothes,” he recalled. “I was warning him that this was assault … and calling upon him to stop and to repent and turn to Christ.”
A police patrol vehicle was parked nearby as the incident took place, and former Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff Tony Miano began calling to the officer to arrest the man. However, Miano and O’Neal state that the officer, Gene Gillock, rather protected the man shaking the cleanser on the Christians.
“As I’m shouting to him, ‘We want this man arrested,’ he’s telling us to stay back and not to disrupt what he’s doing, while he’s letting the assailant [be] who just assaulted six Christians with a white powder,” Miano explained. “He’s treating the guy who assaulted six of our friends as if they had been doing something wrong.”
The evangelists state that instead of handcuffing the man, Gillock pulled up slowly and told the man to keep walking down the street. Moments later, he had the man sit in the back of his car as they talked. The officer then drove away with the passenger door still open as the man sat inside.
Miano said that Gillock never checked on the condition of the Christians.
“There were several people doused in this caustic cleanser, people complaining about their eyes burning, and he didn’t stop to see if anyone needed aid,” he stated. “He did nothing to check on the condition of the victims, but he did everything to accommodate the man who viciously, angrily assaulted six Christians peacefully exercising their right to free speech and exercising their deeply held religious beliefs.”
O’Neal and Miano said that they don’t believe the man was taken to jail but rather escorted home. They called 911 to request that police return and take a criminal complaint. Some of those affected were interviewed and their testimonies presented to the district attorney’s office, but not all witnesses were questioned.
Miano, who served in the police force for 20 years and is now an evangelist, said that he believes Gillock handled the situation improperly.
“If he was thinking as a civil servant, if he was thinking as one who is charged with protecting life and property, he would have secured that suspect so that he couldn’t hurt anyone else, and then he would have checked on the condition of those who had been assaulted, and then he would have conducted a thorough investigation,” he explained.
Miano further outlined that he believes that the outcome would have been much different had the perpetrator and victim roles been reversed.
“Can you imagine if we had thrown something on someone at Planned Parenthood?” he asked, noting that none in the group would ever do so. “We would be called American Jihadists; it would have been all over the news, … they would accuse us of wanting to kill abortionists [and] hating women. And Officer Gillock would have had us all on the ground in handcuffs, and we would have all gone to jail.”
“It just goes to show how upside down the world is,” Miano stated. “They call evil good, and good evil.”
Christian News Network spoke with the Portland Police Department, but was informed that the man will not be prosecuted as the situation is being considered a private criminal complaint.
O’Neal said that he believes Gillock already had a dislike for the outreach even before the incident occurred as the officer contended prior to the attack that “[Y]ou’re just here to annoy these people.”
The pastor responded by explaining that the Christians were rather present to love their neighbor.
“I said, ‘Sir, when you run down the street and tackle a criminal, you’re not hating him,” O’Neal recalled. “You’re loving him because you’re stopping him from his sin and the wages of sin is death. You’re stopping him from harming himself and harming others.”
“In a similar way,” he continued, “when we’re here ministering the law of God, pleading with mothers and fathers not to murder their unborn children, when we’re here lifting up the humanity of the unborn child, we’re not harming them, we’re not hating them—we’re loving them.”
O’Neal and Miano state that the mishandling of the situation by police is an anomaly, as the Portland Police Department has been otherwise diligent about protecting the free speech rights of Christians.
“This is a breach from their normal procedure,” O’Neal said. “But we want this to remain an anomaly.”