Did Wisconsin police ignore state law when they arrested a Christian preacher at a public drag event?

Pastor rebukes officers with message from Romans 13: 'Your duty is to punish evildoers'

An unidentified Christian protester was detained by police at the pride event in Watertown.
An unidentified Christian protester was detained by police at the pride event in Watertown. | Screenshot/YouTube/FreedomNewsTV

Did Wisconsin police working a drag event ignore state law and instead choose to target a Christian street preacher for his beliefs?

An event held at a public park in Wisconsin featuring men dressed as women led to a viral video showing police arresting a Christian preacher who was sharing the Gospel with the event’s attendees.

The July 29 “Pride in the Park’ event at Riverside Park in Watertown, located about 30 miles west of Milwaukee, was hosted by Unity Project of Watertown.

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Video footage shared on social media showed Watertown police arresting a member of Christian apparel brand Rescue the Rainbow after he was told by police to stay away from the event stage, even as other members of the public were seen gathering in that same space.

Nearby, a young street preacher was speaking into a microphone when he was surrounded by police officers who told him preaching was not allowed due to a town ordinance about amplification devices.

Another video shows at least three Watertown police officers grabbing the young man’s microphone and urging him not to resist arrest.

Rescue the Rainbow’s Facebook page later identified one of the arrestees as Marcus Schroeder. The identity of the second arrestee was not clear.

A screenshot of a video showing a Christian street preacher arrested at a Wisconsin drag event.
A screenshot of a video showing a Christian street preacher arrested at a Wisconsin drag event. | Screenshot/Twitter/TonyTM

Following the arrest, Rescue the Rainbow shared a video of  Pastor Matt Trewhella of Mercy Seat Christian Church in Milwaukee rebuking the police officers for their “unlawful, tyrannical” behavior and preaching from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Rome.

“Romans 13, again, for those of you officers who just arrived, makes it clear that your duty is to punish the evildoers. That would be the people over there that are sexualizing children,” Trewhella is heard saying in the video. 

“And our duty is to reward those who do good. That would be the people you've arrested. So you've totally perverted your God-given function and role, turned it on its head, and we wonder how did evil get a foothold in Germany? In the Soviet Union?”

As several police officers stood watch, Trewhella continued: “... You shouldn't be arresting the good guys and letting the bad guys have free reign. Your duty is to arrest the bad guys. There is an ordinance right here in town regarding instructing children and sexual matters.

“What do you think that's all about? They're instructing children in sexual matters. You could arrest them but you chose not to. You chose to arrest the Christians who are simply out here praying and offering literature to people.”

While it’s not clear which ordinance Trewhella referenced in the video, under Wisconsin law, police have the authority to arrest any adult who causes a child to “view or listen to sexually explicit conduct.”

A Watertown ordinance also prohibits “sexually oriented conduct” with children, but it’s unclear whether the pride event violated that or any other local ordinance.

The Christian Post reached out to Watertown police and the city attorney for comment Wednesday. We also contacted both Rescue the Rainbow and Pastor Trewhella for comment. This story will be updated if a response is received.

According to a number of media reports, a neo-Nazi group was on hand to protest the drag event, with LGBT outlet The Advocate grouping the Christian protesters with the Nazi group and what was described as “other right-wing hate groups.”

Other reports touted what the event’s organizers described as a “good relationship with the Watertown Police Department.”

Unity Project of Watertown spokesperson Robin Kangas (left) with partner Trent Kangas.
Unity Project of Watertown spokesperson Robin Kangas (left) with partner Trent Kangas. | Screenshot/YouTube/WMTV

In response to the event, Unity Project of Watertown spokesperson Robin Kangas shared this statement: "Yes, we had a Neo-Nazi group show up to protest our event. But you know who else showed up? The police department working hard at keeping us safe and the event peaceful. A group of religious leaders including rabbis, pastors, and priests affirming the individuals and community at the event.

“Allies and members of the [LGBT] community who spent the rest of the day laughing, sharing joy, making friendships, and spreading love. The Neo-Nazi group tried to derail us, but they failed. At Watertown’s Pride in the Park, love won."

The group’s 2022 pride event — which was also protested by another local Christian group —  featured a “youth drag” performer named Andi Withani Domino, who said in a March interview that he began performing when he was around 13 years old while attending a pride event.

“... My now-drag mother Cass Marie Domino had taken me backstage to meet the queens, and they asked if I wanted to join them onstage,” Withani told local outlet The Capital Times.

 “They did my make-up, gave me a dress and a wig, and I was out there performing — and it was one of the most empowering experiences of my life, to be able to reclaim my femininity and to be able to express it and be proud of it.”

In another post from last year’s event, Kangas shared an image that showed a minor named “Nemo” wearing a wig and dress and in women’s makeup. It’s not clear whether either Withani or “Nemo” took part in Saturday’s event. 

Ian M. Giatti is a reporter for The Christian Post and the author of BACKWARDS DAD: a children's book for grownups. He can be reached at:

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