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Supporters of a Canadian pastor who has spent the past week in a maximum-security Calgary prison after speaking to members of the Freedom Convoy have organized vigils at various Canadian embassies in the United States to protest his treatment Tuesday.
Pastor Artur Pawlowski, who remains in solitary confinement for 23 hours per day at the Calgary Remand Centre, according to his lawyer, was arrested last Monday after he spoke to members of the trucker blockade along the U.S.-Canada border in Coutts, Alberta, on Feb. 4.
During a 20-minute speech to the truckers, the pastor urged them to “hold the line” against government overreach without resorting to violence. They had reportedly reached an agreement to abandon their blockade of the U.S. border and travel to Edmonton until changing their minds following Pawlowski’s address.
Pawlowski also recounted to them the parallels he sees between the Freedom Convoy and Poland’s Solidarity movement in the 1980s that ultimately led to the liberation of his native country, despite a crackdown from its communist government.
‘We don’t fight with guns and swords’
Pawlowski’s most recent arrest marked his fifth since the pandemic. He first made international headlines last April when he threw armed police out of his sanctuary when they attempted to inspect it for COVID-19 compliance during an Easter service.
After continuing to hold church services in defiance of a court order, he has faced repeated dramatic arrests, including in the middle of a busy highway and on the tarmac of the Calgary airport.
Last summer, he conducted a speaking tour throughout the United States, meeting with lawmakers and warning large audiences that Western governments increasingly resemble the communist regime in Poland he fled as a young man.
Pawlowski was preparing to return to the border to officiate a church service and speak to the truckers there last week when police apprehended him, according to Pawlowski’s son, Nathaniel Pawlowski.
“There was an undercover police van, unmarked vehicles staking out our house, we’re guessing, for many, many hours, because they were outside for a long time,” he told Fox News Digital.
Pawlowski was ultimately charged on one count of mischief over $5,000, one count of aiding in blocking critical infrastructure and one count of breaching a bail condition for “not keeping the peace,” which was related to probation conditions under which he was placed in September after being arrested following his U.S. tour.
A truck convoy of anti-COVID-19 vaccine mandate demonstrators continues to block the highway at the busy U.S. border crossing in Coutts, Alberta, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022. (Jeff McIntosh /The Canadian Press)
Pawlowski remains imprisoned after being denied bail during a hearing last Wednesday, when a Crown prosecutor alleged that the pastor’s speech to the truckers was an “overt threat to violence,” according to the CBC.
Pawlowski explicitly told the truckers twice not to resort to violence during their protests, according to video of his remarks.
“May God help us all, because we don’t fight with guns and swords,” he said. “We don’t fight with Tasers and the police vehicles. We don’t. We just want to go back and work hard and achieve something and provide for our families. We just want to be left alone.”
“Again, I’m not talking about violence, swords and guns all that stuff,” he later told the truckers. “You have the most powerful wings ever. Who can move 1,000 trucks? Who can move 10,000 truckers with 100,000 supporters?”
Pawlowski faces another bail hearing Wednesday.
‘We’re at a pivotal point in history’
Nathaniel Pawlowski said his father has been treated poorly in prison but that he remains undeterred and has undertaken two fasts based on biblical tradition.
“He finished a three-day fast based on the story of Esther, where she fasted so that the enemy would be exposed,” he said. “And now he’s doing a 21-day ‘Daniel fast,’ which is basically light food, no meat. It’s eating vegetables so that he would get an answer from God.”
Peaceful prayer protests against Pawlowski’s imprisonment are being planned Tuesday at the Canadian embassies in New York City, Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago and Las Vegas.
Cindy Chafian, who is the executive director of Firebrand Action and Media, which is organizing the vigils, said she remains unsure what the turnout at the embassies will be given the short notice but that the initiative remains important.
“Regardless of what happens, we’re still going to keep pushing through, because I don’t think they’re going to let Artur out,” she said. “But the goal is to raise awareness to what’s happening to Artur. It’s not just what’s going on since COVID. They’ve been targeting him for many, many years. He is not a friendly person in the government’s eyes because he speaks the truth, and they don’t like that.”
Pastor Artur Pawlowski is arrested by Calgary police in the middle of a highway on his way home from church on May 8, 2021. (Courtesy Artur Pawlowski TV)
The organization is also readying signatures for a letter to send to Congress regarding Pawlowski’s treatment.
Chafian said the initiative’s goals extend beyond Pawlowski and are intended to raise international awareness regarding how other clergy in Canada have been treated since the pandemic. Churches throughout Canada have faced imprisoned pastors, locked facilities, steep fines and continued interference from government officials.
In June, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., called on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to consider adding Canada to its special watch list because of how pastors are being treated in the country.
“We’re at a pivotal point in history, and if we don’t stop this, we’re just going to go down the deeper slide,” said Chafian. “And if we don’t think that it’s coming here to the U.S., we’re woefully mistaken.”