Anti-mask organizers charged for weekend rally in Calgary

·2 min read
A rally against mandatory masking and other public health measures in Calgary on Saturday, seen at left, was organized by Artur Pawlowski, according to police, who have charged the street preacher with violating public health orders. (Helen Pike/Artur, Pawlowski/Facebook)

The organizers of an anti-mask rally in Calgary on the weekend have been charged for breaching public health orders. One of them is a downtown street preacher who was fined earlier in the pandemic for similar alleged behaviour.

Hundreds marched through downtown Calgary on Saturday to protest against mandated masks and other public health measures intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The charges fall under the Public Health Act.

Street preacher Art Pawlowski faces tickets for failing to wear a face covering and failing to have an event permit.

David Pawlowski and Ryan Audette each face a charge of failing to wear a face covering where required.

Police are looking for three others who are also facing charges.

A first-time breach of the Public Health Act is a $1,200 fine, police say. Mask bylaw violations are $50 fines.

In April, Art Pawlowski, who leads a street church, was fined $1,200 for allegedly holding a gathering of more than 15 people at Olympic Plaza.

Police said tickets were not issued right away Saturday because officers who attended the rally were concerned for their safety.

"It is not always prudent to issue a ticket at the time of an alleged offence," said the Calgary Police Service in a written statement. "For example, during a protest or event where emotions are high."

Speaking on the Calgary Eyeopener on Wednesday, Ryan Pleckaitis, the city's chief bylaw officer, said police and bylaw officers worked together over the weekend to gather evidence against organizers.

"Moving forward, I anticipate if some of these rallies continue, and if there's not adherence to the public health order, we will continue to do the same. And hopefully, through enforcement, we can start to curb some of those behaviours."

The protests have taken place weekly in the city and across the country for months, but Saturday's was the first since Alberta's 10-person limit on outdoor gatherings was announced five days earlier.