U.S. vigils planned in support of Canadian pastor arrested for encouraging truckers’ blockade

Supporters of a Canadian pastor who was jailed after speaking to truckers protesting against COVID restrictions are planning to hold vigils at Canadian consulates throughout the U.S. on Tuesday.

Vigil organizers say Artur Pawlowski is being held as a “political prisoner” after being arrested last week and charged under Alberta’s Critical Infrastructure Defense Act for giving a 20-minute speech encouraging protesters to maintain the truck blockade at the U.S.-Canada border in Coutts, Alberta.

Mr. Pawlowski has remained in solitary confinement for 23 hours per day at a prison in Calgary since his arrest, according to his lawyers, Fox News reported.

Vigil organizers say they hope to raise awareness.

“Those Canadians attempting to take away freedoms need to know that what they are doing is unacceptable in every way,” Firebrand Action and Media, the group behind the vigils, wrote in a letter to members of the U.S. Congress. “They must be told to halt this behavior immediately.”

The vigils are scheduled to take place in New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago and Las Vegas.

“The Canadians who stand for freedom must know that we understand the fight for liberty and strongly support those who are doing so,” the organizers said. “They need to know we are fighting alongside them against governmental oppression.”

The Poland-born pastor’s arrest last week was his fifth since the start of the pandemic. Last April, he banished Canadian police from his house of worship during a COVID-19 compliance inspection of an Easter service, and has faced several arrests for continuing to hold services in defiance of a court order.

Canadian prosecutors say Mr. Pawlowski’s Feb. 3 speech urging protesters to hold the line at the border was an “overt threat to violence.” Mr. Pawlowski explicitly urged protesters to remain peaceful in his remarks. 

Authorities say the protesters had struck a deal to leave the border crossing but changed their minds after the pastor’s speech.

Mr. Pawlowski was charged with one count of mischief, one count of aiding in blocking critical infrastructure and one count of breaching a previous bail condition for “not keeping the peace.” He was denied bail at a hearing last week.

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