Calgary police arrest street preacher, brother for violating public health orders
Artur and Dawid Pawlowski were charged with organizing an illegal in-person gathering
Calgary police have arrested two organizers of a church service who have been defying public health restrictions throughout the pandemic.
On Saturday, Artur and Dawid Pawlowski were charged with organizing an illegal in-person gathering, inciting or inviting others to attend an illegal gathering, as well as promoting and attending the gathering.
Earlier this week, Alberta Health Services obtained a Court of Queen's Bench Order that applied to gatherings such as protests, demonstrations and rallies.
AHS officials already took action using the order against the Whistle Stop Café in Mirror, Alta., physically closing the restaurant on Wednesday in advance of a planned anti-mask protest. On Saturday, that protest went ahead. Afterward, RCMP officers ticketed those leaving the event and arrested the protest's organizer.
Calgary police said they proactively served the church organizers with the order to ensure citizens attending service on Saturday were abiding by public health orders.
In a release, police said the Pawlowskis "acknowledged the injunction, but chose to ignore requirements for social distancing, mask wearing and reduced capacity limits for attendees" and went ahead with the event.
Throughout the pandemic, the brothers have held large, maskless gatherings and have denied health officials entry to the church, which is located in the southeast neighbourhood of Dover.
AHS has said previously that attempts by health inspectors to enter the church have been met with abusive language and racial slurs.
On Saturday, video from the scene showed one of the church's leaders scream at police, comparing the officers to Nazis.
In another livestreamed video, following the Pawlowskis' arrest, mayoral candidate Kevin J. Johnston said if elected, he is prepared to arm himself and go to the homes of health officials who have taken enforcement actions against the church.
Artur Pawlowski was fined last year for failing to adhere to COVID-19 restrictions, and has drawn controversy for past comments, like when he said Calgary's flooding in 2013 was caused by God's tears over homosexuality.
Pawlowski has also been a speaker at several anti-mask rallies in Calgary.
On Saturday afternoon, police attended the site of a planned anti-mask rally in northeast Calgary — advertised as a "massive exposure rally" — but said no attendees were present.
Alberta currently has more than 25,000 active COVID-19 cases, and the highest rate of active cases in the country.
If Alberta's case numbers don't come down, public-health officials have warned that hospitals could be overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients within a month.
"It is important to understand that law enforcement recognizes people's desire to participate in faith-based gatherings as well as the right to protest. However, as we find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic, we all must comply with public health orders in order to ensure everyone's safety and wellbeing," police said.