How conservatives are turning this crazed street preacher into a martyr of black campus oppression
An intentionally confrontational street preacher was slugged while ranting against “homo sex” during a racism protest at the University of Missouri — and the episode was captured on video by a Tea Party activist and publicized by a Fox News intern.
Jesse Morrell, founder of the Open Air Ministry, is well-known for his loud, crude and shocking tirades against sin on college campuses — and detractors say he intentionally distorts the Gospel in hopes of provoking violent attacks against him to gain attention.
He turned up Thursday, holding a Bible and a sign referring to Hebrews 5:9, at the Missouri campus — which has been roiled by protests over perceived inaction by university administrators against alleged racist threats.
Video recorded by Jeff Rakestraw, a conservative activist from the St. Louis area, show Morrell shouting loudly about “homo sex” and same-sex marriage in the center of a “free speech zone” as most onlookers and demonstrators ignored him.
Rakestraw’s video begins after Morrell was punched, but activists posted another video showing the punch but not what led to it.
— BlackLivesMerch.com (@BlackLivesMerch) November 13, 2015
“It’s an assault on the family unit, which is the backbone of society, and it’s no wonder the Muslims from the Middle East are taking over Europe by immigration,” Morrell says, waving his Bible. “You’re aborting our children, you’re having homo sex and our society is crumbling at its foundation.”
Rakestraw turns his camera from Morrell to record a black activist, who has been described in conservative media accounts as a “New York Communist,” that he and conservative media identified as the alleged assailant.
“So what happened was, the guy who is talking now punched the guy that’s holding the sign and talking about Jesus in the mouth, which is really horrible and really is evident — further evidence of what these folks are all about,” Rakestraw says to the camera. “It’s really sad.”
However, Morrell said he was punched by another man who then fled — and he posted a photo that shows the other man slugging him.
“It is true that I was punched but it wasn’t the guy on the microphone,” Morrell said on his Facebook page. “The guy on the mic only pushed me. The guy who hit me left the scene. I need to get my video online but has (sic) too slow an internet.”
The activist is shown in Rakestraw’s video angrily denouncing Morrell and his supporters, saying he hadn’t planned on speaking at the demonstration until he saw the street preacher and heard his message.
“That dude over there with the sign, right — that’s not why I flew out here,” says the activist, Masai Andrews. “I don’t care about him. We can all see that he’s a joke. That’s blatant, very racism (sic), KKK stupid shit. He’s against gay people, he’s against transgender people, black lives and hip hop, for some f*cking reason, and that’s not what I’m fighting against.”
“I’m here against the people who are trying to give him a platform, people that are more concerned with keeping the peace than fighting oppression,” Andrews continues.
Andrews later told The Raw Story that he was inspired by the police killing of Dontay Ivy in his hometown, Albany, to show solidarity with the anti-racism activists in Missouri.
A spokesman for University of Missouri police confirmed that an incident report was filed and an investigation was underway, but no arrests have been made.
A friend of Morrell’s, who identifies himself as a Fox News “campus associate,” posted a photo of the injured street preacher on his Facebook page, and from there it bled out onto conservative blogs.
“I can no longer stand on the outside of this,” posted friend Jake Loft. “A man of God was assaulted in our ‘free speech zone’ on campus by someone associated with a group of African American Communists from New York for simply using his first amendment rights to spread the word of God. This protest has become an attack on free speech and it is wrong.”
“Gateway Pundit” blogger Jim Hoft posted video recorded by Rakestraw, a Tea Party activist and blogger, under the headline: “Black Activist SLUGS Christian Preacher at UM Free Speech Zone – Grabs Microphone and Starts Talking About Oppression.”
Hoft, who’s from the St. Louis area, is perhaps best known for publishing the inaccurate but widely reported claim that Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson suffered an orbital fracture during an altercation with Mike Brown.
Rakestraw’s political views also go largely unmentioned — such as this conclusion he reached after sharing his video with the Gateway Pundit.
“We need to eliminate government funding for higher education altogether,” Rakestraw posted Friday morning on his Facebook page. “Prices and demand would normalize and market forces and competition would bring down prices and improve quality and efficiency.”
He argued that college was a “bad deal” for most students, who he said graduated with few job skills to show for their time, and said that higher education should not be an “automatic plan for all.”
“Stop subsidizing higher education, and end the circus,” Rakestraw wrote.