CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Those who have been around Charlotte know the bellow, that strong booming voice shouting for peace amid violence and protests.
Sam Bethea is known for carrying his bright yellow sign, shouting loudly “Jesus Saves.”
The man, acknowledged by many as the “Jesus Saves” guy, has delivered his message on the Charlotte streets for years.
Bethea was out shouting last summer during protests in Charlotte over racial injustice.
He has since taken his voice to the national stage.
Bethea was in Washington D.C. during the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
And, “God willing,” he says, he will be at Wednesday’s inauguration for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
Bethea says it is important for him to be at Wednesday’s inauguration to share his message that “Jesus Saves,” no matter who is in office.
He told WBTV that he leans more toward the conservative side with his political views, but his Christian values are above any party affiliation.
“I’m a Christian before any kind of label,” Bethea said. “I’m not a conservative. I’m not a Republican. I’m not a Democrat, you know, but I vote for issues that are closest to the conservative viewpoint.”
Bethea was in the middle of the mob that marched toward the Capitol building and witnessed a lot of the anger, and destruction that occurred two weeks ago.
He said he doesn’t believe what happened on Jan. 6 will repeat itself at the inauguration.
“If anybody tries anything, it’s going to be like a suicidal mission,” Bethea said. “It’s like Fort Knox up there. The layout is like a rat going through a maze, you got to go through detectors, they got military. They got the officers is heavily fortified, and I think that they’re really showing their muscle.”
Bethea hopes to be at or near the inauguration, delivering his message -- “Jesus Saves” - as loud and far as his voice can be heard.
He said that being present during the inauguration is not only a calling from God, but also because he loves the country and was given the right of Freedom of Speech.
“I just think that whoever’s my president, whether it be Trump or Biden, I am commanded to pray for our president,” Bethea said. “If I can’t respect them, I have to respect the office. The Bible tells us to pray for those in authority over us. I care about our country. I care about souls and most of all Jesus Christ and them knowing that message.”
Security will be at an all-time high during the inauguration after more protests and unsettlement in regard to the change of office at the White House.
Hundreds of officers from the Charlotte area and N.C. National Guard will be in the nation’s capital to assist with security.
Bethea, who lives in Charlotte, says he went to Washington D.C. on Sept. 15, and he was through the November elections.
He’s been there ever since, preaching his word on love and peace.
“It was just so many other things taking place in DC, like, since the time I’ve been here in September to now it’s always been at something like every weekend or every other weekend, if you know, from the Supreme Court to the White House and everything that’s been going on in the mall area,” Bethea said.
Bethea went out to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and had been there since early in the morning.
He had boxes of signs and bracelets and t-shirts, and everything that he gives away free.
“And it was so peaceful,” Bethea said. “I mean, I had two news stations did an interview with me. They were asking me my thoughts. And I was just telling them, ‘Look, I said we live in America, we got freedom of speech. We care about our country, we care about the results of this election. And I even emphasize I said, Look, ain’t no buildings being burnt down, the windows being broken.”
Bethea said a few hours later, President Trump started speaking and then the people began marching in a pack from the back part of the White House to the U.S. Capitol.
“I’m bicycling up there, as I see the crowds. It’s all going that way and I’m trying to get to the front of it,” Bethea said. “I just want to get to the front and my heart. I was like, I got to get to the front. And I just got to tell him, ‘Jesus saves. Jesus loves them.’”
Bethea watched as the hoards of people stormed to the U.S. Capitol building.
“The ones that were at the very front, I saw them, unfortunately, take the gates down,” Bethea said. “You have probably about 20 guards and officers out there. And when they moved those three or four fences back, and the guards took off running up the hill, they started running behind the guards and everybody, it was just like sand in the hourglass. Everybody was just flowing in there.”
Bethea, with his “Jesus Saves” sign in hand, said he was telling people, “that’s not what we do.”
“We don’t do this. I was trying to be a peacemaker,” he said. “I was just going to encourage them, do not go on the Capitol.”
Bethea was in the middle of the protest but said he went as far as he could possibly go without trespassing.
“I did not go on the lawn. I did not go into buildings,” Bethea said.
Bethea was seen in some videos and photos that went viral, as he was among the crowd, working to keep the peace.
“I’m telling you, my heart is grieved. I grieve,” Bethea said. “I was actually literally crying, crying as I’m chanting “Jesus Saves. Jesus Loves you.’”
Bethea wasn’t going to breach the Capitol grounds, despite seeing protesters climb the walls.
Bethea said, at the time, he didn’t see the people breaching the U.S. Capitol.
He heard from the outside that a woman was shot and killed during the insurrection.
The crowd was marching on Capitol Hill as Congress was working to confirm Joe Biden as the next United States President.
“I could not believe the way we let this moment get away from us,” Bethea said.
Bethea said that as he was standing on the steps of the Capitol, holding up his sign, chanting, and thinking to himself, “Why are you going in there?”
“They’re telling me to keep preaching the word, Amen brother,” Bethea said. “I saw a husband and wife taking their kids up there on the line. I saw elderly people with walkers and wheelchairs being lifted up two flights of stairs so they could get to the lawn.”
Bethea said those who stormed the U.S. Capitol buildings were no different than those protesting for Antifa or the Black Lives Matter movement.
“We’re no different,” he said. “This is forever history. We’ll be able to say that. We own that. I do side with the conservatives, the evangelicals, and I just want to apologize because I feel like we really messed this up, we dropped the ball, and now it’s exposed.”
Bethea also said President Trump was unfairly criticized for the insurrection at the Capitol.
He believes it was the people’s choice that put the president in that position.
“I just wish we could express our feelings in a peaceful way as we have been,” Bethea said.
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be sworn into office at noon from Capitol Hill.
The inaugural address is as much a celebration of the peaceful handover of power as it is a set piece for a new or re-elected president to lay out a vision for the nation,” according to The Associated Press.
In recent memory, inaugural addresses have followed a predictable structure: The nation has challenges but there is hope to solve the problems if the president’s agenda is embraced.
President Trump has elected not to attend the inauguration.
He will be first outgoing president to skip his successor’s swearing-in since Andrew Johnson did not attend Ulysses S. Grant’s inauguration in 1869.