Three men have been charged, and police are trying to track down three other people who are thought to be the organizers of an anti-mask rally that drew hundreds of unmasked faces to downtown Calgary on the weekend.
The large crowd holding signs with slogans like, “It’s just the flu,” and “Masks are child abuse,” started the “Walk for Freedom” rally at city hall and marched down Stephen Avenue, protesting the city’s COVID-19-related mask mandate.
Organizers said at the time they want to see fewer government restrictions.
The rally was in defiance of new measures announced last Tuesday, including limiting outdoor gatherings to 10 people.
Calgary police called the gathering “illegal” in a news release.
Many questioned why tickets weren’t handed out to unmasked protesters while the rally was going on.
Supt. Ryan Ayliffe explained on Monday that when officers are at protests or events where “emotions are high,” tickets may handed out in the hours or days after, rather than in the thick of things.
“Please don’t take the perceived appearance of lack of enforcement as a reflection of our intent to ticket those who flaunt the law,” he said.
Police said Wednesday it’s “not always prudent to issue a ticket at the time of an alleged offence,” out of an abundance of safety for officers and community members.
Artur Pawlowski, David Pawlowski and Ryan Audette were all charged under the Public Health Act for contravening a health order — which comes with a fine of $1,200 — and refusing to wear a face covering — a bylaw ticket which has a $50 fine. Artur was also charged with not having a permit for the event.
“We know everyone is struggling right now and our intent is not to punish, but to protect the safety of Calgarians as we work together through this pandemic,” police said Wednesday.”
Calgary police is responsible for enforcing mandatory COVID-19 restrictions. The service said its public health compliance team is focusing on mass gatherings, self-isolation and quarantine and businesses who are not complying to the restrictions.
— With files from Slav Kronik