Bay to Breakers 2004: Arrest Averted

The Bay to Breakers is a San Francisco tradition; it’s a seven mile race” that begins at the San Francisco Bay and ends up at the ocean. We use the word “race” loosely, because while there are some serious runners, there are also many who come just to be part of the spectacle. People dress up as anything from pieces of food, to animals, to politicians. Some people do not dress at all.

Bay to Breakers is also a Jews for Jesus tradition. Every year, staff and volunteers come to meet the participants just past the finish line to congratulate them and to hand them a tract. On some years we also have offered free foot massages. This year we had 14 staff and volunteers hand out 11,400 tracts after the race.

David Rothstein, who was in charge of the outreach, was approached by the event director, who informed him that we would have to leave or she would call the police. David expressed our legal right to hand out free religious literature and told her that if she wanted to call the police she was free to do so.

The police came and threatened arrest, but when David again pressed the legal right to be there and said, “If you are going to arrest me, go ahead,” the officer said something to the effect of, “Oh man, I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I’ve never arrested anyone for handing out free religious literature.” Clearly the police did not want to arrest us, but were just responding to the complaint of the director. When David did not back down, thankfully the police did. We are thankful to God that a false arrest was averted.

It goes to show, first, that we serve a good God who is watching over us, and second, if you don’t stand up for your rights you are likely to lose them!


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