Man charged after fight with another in wheelchair at rally against COVID-related restrictions

·2 min read
The confrontation occurred after a rally against COVID-19 public health restrictions on Prince's Island in downtown Calgary on March 20. (@TaylorMadeYYC/Twitter - image credit)
The confrontation occurred after a rally against COVID-19 public health restrictions on Prince's Island in downtown Calgary on March 20. (@TaylorMadeYYC/Twitter - image credit)

Calgary police have charged a man with assault and assault with a weapon after a fight between two men — one in a wheelchair — after a rally against COVID-19 public health restrictions.

The incident, shared widely on social media, took place around 4:15 p.m. on March 20 after a large crowd gathered for the rally on Prince's Island in downtown Calgary.

One man at the rally — photographed wearing a shirt that read "proud white Christian man" adorned with iron crosses — was confronted by another man in a wheelchair who called the first "an offensive name," police said in a news release issued Tuesday.

"A verbal altercation ensued followed by the wheelchair-bound man ripping a crucifix necklace from the other man's neck," said police in a news release.

"The man struck the man in the wheelchair multiple times, at which time, several of the wheelchair-bound man's friends began to gather around the two."

The man who wasn't in the wheelchair was carrying a flag pole at the time of the encounter and made jabbing motion toward the group, according to police.

He then struck a woman in the chest "pushing her backwards five to 10 feet," reads the release.

That prompted a struggle between the two men.

"One of the group interjected in the altercation and the man with the flag pole attempted to punch the individual before stepping backwards, losing his footing and falling," said police.

Not hate-motivated, say police

Officers intervened and separated the groups. Everyone refused to provide statements at the time.

"It is believed the man in the wheelchair instigated the encounter both verbally and with the first physical contact," said police.

"However, the other man's response by numerous punches to the wheelchair-bound man, and the subsequent strike to the woman with the flagpole were beyond reasonable to stop any perceived threat or assault."

Police have charged the man who wasn't in a wheelchair, Milan Matusik, 65, with assault and assault with a weapon.

However, police say the incident does not meet the threshold for hate crimes or hate-motivated criminal allegations.

"Finding a balance between the rights and freedoms of expression, with public safety and the impact these rallies have on the community, is extremely challenging," reads the police news release.

"As a service, we strongly condemn racism and hate. Although we may find certain viewpoints not in alignment with who we are as a compassionate, kind community, physical violence is never the answer."