Protesters: noisy but no problems
January 31, 2007
His voice was not booming from the heavens but Matthew Conrad’s words were a bit louder than the rest of the people milling about outside the O.C. Tanner jewelry store on Main Street.
Conrad is a pastor at the Park City Baptist Church and, like others with causes, arrived on Main Street during the Sundance Film Festival to rally the festival-goers to their side.
Conrad on Saturday told the passersby, including a few people who stopped to listen, that he had been born again as he shouted quotes from the Bible. For a few minutes, he argued with a man. That person then briefly started preaching his own version of the Bible.
"He loves you. He doesn’t want you to go to hell," Conrad yelled.
Conrad’s street-side sermon on Saturday illustrates the free-for-all that Main Street turns into during Sundance, even during the closing weekend, when crowds thin, lots of the celebrities are already gone and most of the media have moved on from Sundance.
The street during the 10 days of Sundance becomes the city’s hotspot, with more of the zaniness that marks the festival on display than at Sundance’s screening rooms or inside any of the deal-making restaurants that line Main Street.
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Anti-war demonstrators and animal-rights activists also were seen on the street, competing with the religious people for attention. Meanwhile there was a small march after a Saturday Eccles Center screening of "Chicago 10," a Sundance film about the 1968 demonstrations outside the Democratic National Convention.
Some handed out phony money containing religious messages, like "Read your Bible daily and obey what you read. God will never let you down."
Main Street, Conrad says, provides the crowds and an opportunity to preach to people well known for their liberal leanings. On Saturday, Conrad left his spot outside O.C. Tanner, after apparently drawing the attention of the nearby stores, and headed across Main Street, to Miners Park. There he led a short prayer circle.
"I’m trying to help them. They don’t need religion. They don’t need a church," Conrad says in an interview, indicating that people need to follow Jesus.
The Park City Police Department received a series of complaints during Sundance about people demonstrating on Main Street, including those apparently unhappy with the religious people and the animal-rights activists.
The department sent protest patrols to Main Street, including at about 8:30 p.m. on Friday. Jan. 26. During that patrol, the police received a complaint that too many demonstrators were on the 500 block of Main Street but police logs do not indicate the demonstrators’ cause. The police found five people protesting and said others were stopping to talk to the five. Just earlier, the police received a similar complaint from the same area but the police determined that the demonstrators were not breaking rules.
Rick Ryan, a police lieutenant, reports that none of the demonstrators were problematic. He says the police did not arrest any of them and none were ticketed. The street preachers drew the attention of the police as well but Ryan says they were not breaking the law.
He says the police before the festival had figured there would be other problems, such as what was expected to be a demonstration during the premier of "Hounddog," a Sundance film that depicts a child-rape scene.
"We had planned on some various protests with some of the different movies and that did not occur," he says. "We did not have any problem with any of them. Some didn’t come about at all."