A demonstration took place Saturday at the Mall of America with participants wearing various Jesus shirts. The event was organized in response to a video that surfaced of a man, Paul Shoro, who was asked to remove his “Jesus Saves” shirt or leave the mall on Jan. 7.
Shoro told Alpha News that he and other members of his church were at the mall Saturday to “proclaim the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
“They were about to kick me out because of my shirt, because they said it was offensive, then after one hour of argument, the other police came and said I could stay,” he continued. “Today we are here to help people, not to offend anyone, but to tell people about the good news of the Gospel.”
Protesters gathered at the Mall of America this afternoon with “Jesus is the only way” shirts pic.twitter.com/WdpVfR8hoM
— Alpha News (@AlphaNewsMN) February 4, 2023
The mall said Shoro received a 24-hour trespassing ban a week prior to the Jan. 7 incident for “soliciting guests.” At the time of the incident, however, he was simply walking around the mall with the shirt on.
Event organizer Luca Jo Groppoli told those who gathered around 12:45 p.m. to disperse throughout the mall and not cause disturbances.
“We are gathering at the MOA with our shirts on, this is NOT a protest,” the Facebook event description reads.
The demonstration was met with a mainly positive reaction from mall patrons, with some stopping to take photos and others engaging in discussions with the participants.
“I saw the video of this young man who, from what I could see, was being told he couldn’t wear that shirt because it offended people. And that alone was enough for me to say, ‘I’d like to get a shirt like that, and wear it, without preaching or causing a problem,’” Paul Jackson, a participant wearing a “Jesus saves” shirt, told Alpha News. “It’s private property, but it’s a public space. We should be able to do that.”
Larry Goeddel told Alpha News that he was there to support his faith. “You can probably walk around here and see many shirts that say things that would be offensive that they would probably leave alone. Why this shirt? It’s just odd to me that it would be a problem. If he’s just professing his faith through his shirt, to me it’s a free speech issue.”
One participant estimated that there were hundreds of people wearing Jesus shirts shopping at the mall. Most of the participants were walking around, but a group of around 75 gathered outside of the L.L. Bean store.
Kingdom Bizness, a YouTuber and self-proclaimed minister from Atlanta, Ga., led the larger group in singing and chanting “Jesus Christ” and “Jesus saves.” He also is the author of a Change.org petition with nearly 3,000 signatures asking the Mall of America to “stop religious discrimination.”
Mall security as well as Bloomington police officers were on scene, and asked the group of demonstrators several times to disperse, saying that they would be asked to leave the premises if they failed to comply. Mall security declined to answer questions from Alpha News.
The crowd outside L.L. Bean largely dissipated. Many of the demonstrators gathered again around 3 p.m. to sing hymns.
Later, a group of participants who were continuing to sing and chant, including Kingdom Bizness, were escorted out of the mall by security, who threatened them with arrest if they did not leave the premises.