Hundreds of people showed up Sunday to protest at the site of GraceLife Church (GLC) in Spruce Grove, Alberta. GLC has insisted that its members were not among the protesters, some of whom at one point started tearing down the fence surrounding the shuttered church.
“Grace Life Church appreciates the public outpouring of support to fully open churches in Alberta,” said GLC in a statement issued by Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), which represents the congregation and its pastor, James Coates. “Grace Life Church congregants were not at the protest that occurred on Sunday, April 11, 2021 near the Church’s facility. Grace Life Church recognizes the place for peaceful protest within the context of a democracy.” The church’s statement continues:
Grace Life Church has no control of our Church or grounds at this time. The Church grounds are fully under the responsibility and control of the RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] and Alberta Health Services [AHS]. The closing of the Grace Life facility has understandably resulted in significant public outrage and caused even larger crowds to gather in one place. Albertans have a constitutional right to assemble, associate, and worship. By taking the measures the government has, while the matter is still pending before the Courts, the Alberta Government has created an even more divisive situation.
It is time to end these unscientific, unjustified and arbitrary lockdown measures.
Hundreds Show Up to Protest at GraceLife Church
AHS shuttered GLC last Wednesday, erecting a fence around the property two weeks after Pastor James Coates was released from prison for ignoring public health restrictions. The congregation has been disregarding a 15 percent capacity limitation on in-person worship. AHS released a statement saying it has “physically closed GraceLife Church (GLC) and has prevented access to the building until GLC can demonstrate the ability to comply with Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health’s (CMOH) restrictions.”
Groups that organized Sunday’s protest included Walk for Freedom, which describes itself as “a UNITED front for various movements and peoples to rally and peacefully promote breeches to our civil liberties across Alberta.” Walk for Freedom told people to meet at 6 a.m. Sunday in Calgary and to arrive at GLC by approximately 10 a.m.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police issued a news release ahead of the protest warning that there would be increased traffic enforcement Sunday along the roads near the church building. The notice warned, “Parking north of Highway 627 on Enoch Cree First Nation and parking or stopping on the highway itself is not permitted.”
In addition to increased traffic restrictions, police set up a blockade in front of the church. CTV News said “dozens of RCMP cruisers” were present and authorities also had tow trucks to remove vehicles that were blocking the highway.
Video journalist Laura Krause, who documented the events of the day, reported that people had started arriving by 9:30 a.m.