Man charged in fight that started while leaving Calgary anti-lockdown protest

Police are investigating a drive-by shooting in the northeast community of Greenview July 21, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Calgary police have charged a 65-year-old man in connection to a fight that erupted after he left an anti-lockdown protest at Prince’s Island Park earlier this month.

Hundreds of demonstrators openly defied the province’s pandemic restrictions and gathered together on March 20 to protest public health measures aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.

Police said a man attending the rally was leaving the downtown park at around 4:15 p.m. when he was approached by a man in a wheelchair who called him an “offensive name.”

Police said in a Tuesday news release that the pair engaged in a verbal altercation, “followed by the wheelchair-bound man ripping a crucifix necklace from the other man’s neck.”

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Police allege the man leaving the protest then hit the man in the wheelchair “multiple times,” at which time, several friends of the man in the wheelchair began to gather around the pair.

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Police said the man who had left the rally was carrying a flagpole with him and made a “jabbing motion” toward the group of people before “striking a woman in the chest with the butt end of his flagpole, pushing her backwards five to 10 feet.”

“A struggle ensued between the man in the wheelchair and the man with the flagpole, which resulted in the man falling out of his wheelchair and the flagpole being broken.

“One of the group interjected in the altercation and the man with the flagpole attempted to punch the individual before stepping backwards, losing his footing and falling,” police continued.

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Officers intervened and separated the parties, but police said all of them refused to provide statements at that time.

Since then, police have reviewed all available CCTV footage — including officer-worn body cameras — and taken statements from witnesses.

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

As such, police have charged Milan Matusik with assault and assault with a weapon.

He is scheduled to appear in court on May 5.

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“A thorough review of this investigation determined the assault did not meet the threshold for hate crimes, or hate-motivated criminal allegations,” police said.

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“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,” police added.

“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.”

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