By Kurt Phillips
Canadian Anti-Hate Network
In 2018 an American federal court ruled that a baker who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple "setting a major precedent allowing people to claim exemptions from anti-discrimination laws based on religious beliefs." The decision was praised by many conservative Christians in the US and Canada in part because it allowed businesses to deny services to those they disapproved of on moral grounds. In short, they were allowed to discriminate and transact business with whom they wished.
So, the question I had at the time was, if the shoe were on the other foot, how would these same conservative Christians react if they were denied service? What's good for the goose is good for the gander, right?
This weekend Brad Carrigan, Artur and Dawid Pawlowski, and their supporters protested outside a Calgary, Alberta, Community Natural Foods - a grocery store enforcing mask bylaws. This comes on the heels of Kevin Johnston and Derek Storie visiting a grocery store in Dawson Creek, BC for the same reason -- which resulted in Johnston being arrested for assault against the store owner, and making international headlines.
The Pawlowskis have been public figures in the national patriot movement for years, organizing protests against what they claim is anti-Christian persecution, and often targeting municipal authorities. They lost their charitable status for their church in 2010 due to their anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ activism taking too much of their resources. In 2018, Artur Pawlowski lent his support to Bill Whatcott, who was charged for wilful promotion of hatred against trans people, by organizing a protest.
His involvement in anti-lockdown protests has resulted in him receiving a number of bylaw fines. Most recently, the brothers organized the “Jerico Torch March,” a rally that borrowed its promotional images from the deadly Unite the Right protest in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Despite the protesters stating they were not there to cause problems, their own videos of the incident show the crowd harassing employees and repeatedly refusing to get out of their personal space.
Opening with Carrigan leading a group to the front of the store, they are immediately halted by a man who identifies himself as the manager of the grocery coop.
Early on both Pawlowski brothers threw a major tantrum demanding the police arrest security guards who removed a supporter and threatened to sue the store. Artur in particular begins his role in the video repeatedly shouting that the staff needs to “uphold the law.”
“What’s wrong with you, you cops,” he shouts at officers on scene attempting to move the crowd away from the door. “You are here to obey the law, not keep the peace.”
A chorus of followers join the street preacher in his shrieking sermon, demanding that store staff be charged for forcing a member of their group to leave the location.
“Everyone of these police people here thinks that they have to take care of you, instead of me,” the man yells. “Will one of the police here please take care of me and make sure that the guy who assaulted me is reported, now.”
“You look fine,” a woman shouts back.
“You’re not a doctor.”
The protesters then threaten to shut down the business for not giving in to their bullying and intimidation.
“We’re going to make our stand here,” Artur Pawlowski tells someone off-camera. “Let’s shut down their business.”
After one member attempts to explain to the manager that a private business is actually a public business during business hours, the speeches begin.
Carrigan first demands that the grocery store be fined for violating bylaws allowing mask exemptions (though I would be genuinely surprised if any of them actually warranted an exception).
“What the community is doing is actually perpetuating the problem of taking away human rights and forcing people into a mask situation. What escalates it even worse is they allow their security guards to put their hands on the clients who do not want to wear a mask, and have a legal right under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the rights under the bylaws, not to wear a mask,” he said into a loudspeaker.
“This is why we’re here today, we’re not here to agitate. The police are on our side. The police are on the side of the public, and the police are not here as an enemy to us.”
And it wouldn't be a Carrigan speech without references to the "fake news" and pseudo-medical woo.
“And guess what, we have the top doctors in the world speaking at our rallies. Fake news, Global TV, guess what, they won’t even report it.”
At one point Artur figures they need to call 911 because the police aren't arresting grocery store workers. Dawid takes out his phone and makes a call, but this is later revealed to be to 311. Both the brother have continued to sport Star of David armbands, comparing the plight of anti-maskers to that of Jews during the Holocaust.
Dawid Pawloaski wearing his Star of David armband. Source: Facebook
When Artur steps up to the microphone, he begins a Festivus airing of grievances.
And boy, "he's got a lot of problems with you people."
“Here is the problem we are facing today, Canada was, and let me emphasize on this ‘was’, a nation of law, that would uphold the freedom and the rule of law,” Artur says. “The preamble to our constitution is very clear. That Canada recognizes the supremacy of God, that is the first thing, and the rule of law. Today we have police officers assisting other people in breaking the law. You have armed police officers that are assisting people in front of them, people that break the law clearly.
“We cannot go to the store because we have a medical exemption and the police are watching this, but not only just watching this. The police are participating in this. They’ve turned their badges, they’ve turned their uniforms into thugs.”
He concludes by stating it is his right to shop at the grocery store and asks others to join him in what is essentially a storming of the store.
Back at the store, Carrigan assures an agitated Artur that the police will be on their side, once they know the "truth" (i.e. conspiracy theories and pseudo-medical science). They then accuse the workers of being criminals.
This would be embarrassing in and of itself, but Artur inadvertently lets the cat out of the bag that there is nothing really principled about the anti-mask position. First, he says you can't pick and choose what laws to follow... unless you don't like those laws?
Finally, remember when Artur and Kevin Johnston were indignant that bylaw officers and journalists were taking photos of "women and children'' at Artur's church, even going so far as to suggest they were predators.
Artur doesn't seem to have a problem now as he films not only the children who attended the protest with their parents, but also women entering the grocery store who have nothing to do with the protest.
And when one woman who doesn't want to be filmed confronts him, his response is so incredibly galling that one has to wonder if Artur is capable of any self-awareness at all.
"Because that's my right."
And that is when he is finally being the most honest.
There are no higher principles here. No fighting for freedom. Artur and the others are simply stomping their feet and demanding their perceived rights are respected while not giving a damn about the right of others.
The trend of descending upon community grocery stores will likely not go away. We will see more of this, just as the anti-mask movement as a whole has not waned even a little since the onset of the pandemic.
More than a year on, it’s only growing, and every time they show their faces we are reminded what the real agenda is.