Coronavirus: Controversial Aylmer, Ont., pastor charged in Victoria Park ‘Freedom Rally’

Pastor Henry Hildebrandt made headlines early in the pandemic by holding drive-in services at Aylmer's Church of God that flouted COVID-19-related restrictions. Sawyer Bogdan / Global News

Police in London, Ont., say they’ve laid an additional charge following a recent “Freedom Rally” in Victoria Park that voiced opposition to health restrictions related to COVID-19 and questioned the severity of the virus.

When the additional charge was announced, police identified the accused as a 57-year-old man from Aylmer, a town of about 7,500 located southeast of London.

Read more: Coronavirus — 3 London, Ont., women charged in connection with Victoria Park ‘Freedom Rally’

In a live stream posted to Facebook, Henry Hildebrandt confirms he was the one recently charged in connection to the rally.

“I, apparently, just received a ticket,” Hildebrant said in the nearly five-minute-long video, shortly after he is seen interacting with a pair of London police officers.

“The ticket was that apparently, they said, I was getting ticketed for being at a peaceful protest at Victoria Park in London.”

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Police describe the charge as participating in an outdoor gathering that exceeded the number permitted under the Reopening Ontario Act.

Read more: Controversial pastor speaks out against Aylmer’s state of emergency ahead of anti-mask protest

A pastor with the Church of God in Aylmer, Hildebrandt made headlines early in the pandemic for hosting drive-in services in the church’s parking lot that defied coronavirus-related restrictions and seemingly ignored warnings from local police.

In recent months, Hildebrandt has been seen attending and speaking at various anti-restriction rallies in southwestern Ontario, including one in Aylmer that drew about 2,000 people.

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Four people have now been charged in relation to Sunday’s rally in Victoria Park.

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The first set of charges were announced on Wednesday and saw police charge three London women, age 36, 44 and 37.

The three were all charged with participating and hosting in an outdoor gathering with more than the permitted number of participants under the Reopening Ontario Act.

The three women and Hildebrandt have all been given a court date of Feb. 22, 2021, scheduled for London’s provincial courthouse at 824 Dundas St.

Police say an investigation into the rally is ongoing and that more charges may be announced.

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