Kingston Police say they “will balance public safety with enforcement” as No More Lockdowns Canada continues to plan “pop-up church” events in Kingston city parks.
The first such event, held on Sunday, May 23 at Victoria Park, attracted approximately 70 people. Its guest speaker, Pastor Andrew DeBartolo from Encounter Church, preached for about 20 minutes as Kingston Police monitored the event some distance away. As Pastor DeBartolo finished his sermon, three Kingston Police officers, led by Sgt Jay Finn, moved in asking to speak with the pastor. Attendees quickly surrounded the officers for a few tense minutes before Sgt Finn asked the attendees to spread out, with most attendees acquiescing to the request. “We’re not in a position to make anything happen,” said Sgt. Finn, indicating that he was just trying to have a conversation with Pastor DeBartolo and asking that attendees disperse now that the church service had ended.
When questioned by Kingston Police, DeBartolo indicated that he had not organized the event and had only been asked to be a guest speaker. Several of the attendees said the event had not been organized by anyone, while others indicated that it had been organized by Connie Fournier and No More Lockdowns Canada. A Facebook event notification shows No More Lockdowns Canada as the event organizer, with Connie Fournier as one of its administrators.
The Kingston Police officers listened to attendees for approximately 15 minutes, with attendees at various times discussing the alleged lack of constitutionality of provincial lockdown orders, the psychological effects of school closures, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“I know that this would be the worst assignment ever, and we’re very thankful that you are listening to us, and that this is going as well as we could ever expect, and so I just wanted to say thank you very much,” said Kathryn DeBartolo, to applause from the crowd. After a few more conversations with other attendees, officers left the park, continuing to monitor the event from their cruisers about 100 metres away. Most of the attendees left the park shortly thereafter.
Kingston Police indicate that no charges were laid following the event.
“Patrol officers were dispatched shortly after 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 23. Attendees were asked to disperse and follow guidelines. It does not appear any charges were laid at the time,” said Kingston Police in a statement following the event. “Due to operational constraints and staffing it was more prudent for public and officer safety to have police observe and monitor the situation, engage in a predominantly fair exchange between parties, and then the gathering dispersed shortly thereafter.”
No More Lockdowns Canada says that, following the outcome of that first pop-up church event, it plans to host additional events in Kingston, with another pop-up church event planned for this Sunday, at another city park.
Kingston Police says that it is aware of the event and that officers will be monitoring it as well.
“Kingston Police will continue to balance public safety factors with enforcement options in relation to potential COVID-19 violations. Current rules allow for religious services of up to 10 people whether indoors or outdoors, with physical distancing needing to be maintained and attendees to wear masks or face coverings when they are within 2 metres of another person who is not part of their household,” said Kingston Police in a statement. “If a service occurs in contravention of the prescribed numbers Kingston Police will investigate and consider all available enforcement options and whether applicable charges are laid at the time or following the occurrence.”