Lakeland man arrested for preaching too loud

May 7th, 2010 by

LAKELAND - It wasn’t what Anthony Lowery said that got him arrested. His religious message was protected by the Constitution.

It wasn’t how he said it, or where – on the street, near the intersection of Martin Luther King Avenue and Memorial Boulevard.

It was the microphone and two large speakers that landed him in jail Tuesday.

Police said residents and nearby businesses complained that Anthony T. Lowery was too loud. When Lakeland officers arrived, they told Lowery to turn it down, a message they had delivered to the 49-year-old before.

Lowery wouldn’t stop, though, and continued “to preach at a high volume,” according to a news release from the Lakeland Police Department.

He was arrested Tuesday morning at the intersection and charged with violation of the city’s noise ordinance. The confrontation between police and Lowery took place at 9:15 a.m.

Two businesses and two homeowners complained Tuesday to police, said Sgt. Terri Smith, a Lakeland police spokeswoman.

“It was loud enough that it was causing problems in the community,” Smith said.

Officers considered issuing him a notice to appear in court for a noise violation but decided to arrest him when it became obvious he was going to continue violating the ordinance, police said.

Lowery was booked into the Polk County Jail, then released later in the day on his own recognizance, records show.

Smith emphasized that his arrest wasn’t due to Lowery’s Christian proselytizing.

“That’s not the issue,” Smith said. “He can continue to do that if he turns the volume down. He’s free to preach. The amplified voice was the issue.”

Lowery said he has been preaching on the street corner for nine years. He said he has been told to turn down the volume before and always complies.

On the day he was arrested, he said, police did not first tell him to turn down the speakers.

“It wasn’t noise,” he said. “I was preaching for nine years and I’m too loud? The same volume, the same way?”

Lowery said one officer had been hassling him for a month, but said he doesn’t harbor anger at police.

“Even though they arrested me, I still love them. I’ve been praying for them. I’ve been praying for the city, the chief and all of them.”

Even being thrown in jail had an upside, he said.

“It wasn’t in vain that I went to jail because I got to minister and preach to all those people. They weeped and cried. And all those people who worked down there, they knew who I was. They said, ‘You’re the man that preaches on the corner. What are you doing here for preaching on the corner?”

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