Praying aloud gets man jailed.

Something’s wrong with police priorities

 

Maybe if Artur Pawlowski had been holding a flag of the outlawed terrorist organization Hezbollah, Calgary Police would have left him alone.

 

Perhaps had they seen him on a street corner smoking crack cocaine — or selling it — they would have turned the other cheek, as is so often the case.

 

But Pawlowski was clearly doing something much more provocative Wednesday afternoon on the corner of 17 Ave. and 8 St. S.W. He — along with about six other people — were praying and reading the Bible.

Pawlowski, 33, who has been helping the homeless for years, gave up his lucrative home-building business last year to start up The Street Church full-time.

 

With the support of area churches, he spends most of his time feeding, clothing, housing and loving members of Calgary’s homeless population. He starts by ta

king his church to them — in front of the Drop-In Centre mostly, but for the past four years, he has often preached to the drug dealers and street kids who congregate in the block-long park in front of Mount Royal Village shopping centre.

 

Because Pawlowski has been threatened so often by drug dealers angry their clients often turn away from drugs as a result of his message of hope and help, he started videotaping every outing. Wednesday’s was no different.

 

Pawlowski and his friends, including his younger brother, David, stood in the far southeast corner of the park praying and reading the Bible.

 

Shawn Pierson, 25, once a street person himself who is “one of the fruits” of Pawlowski’s ministry can be seen and heard on the videotape reading from Psalm 140: “‘O Lord, I say to you, ‘You are my God.’ Hear, O Lord, my cry for mercy.’ “

 

Such activity was clearly too fringe for the Fringe Festival underway in tents further west (and out of earshot) in the park. On Monday, Pawlowski and his brother went to the park, talked with tarot card readers and other practisers of “sorcery” to tell them the Bible condemns such practices. Video shows they remained calm but the vendors became agitated. Event organizers called police and Pawlowski and his brother David were asked not to talk to the vendors again. They agreed and left.

 

On Wednesday, when they returned to pray, they stayed far away from the vendors. Organizers called police anyway.

 

The video shows Pawlowski standing on the public sidewalk with his hands in his pockets. He asks a burly police officer in a calm voice, “Why are you harassing me? What did I do wrong?” The police officer responds with: “I’m going to arrest you for obstruction.”

 

At that, Pawlowski is handcuffed and made to walk backwards to the police cruiser where he was frisked.

 

Pawlowski is then heard telling the police officer about his Charter rights to freedom of speech, assembly and religion, pointing out his family immigrated to Canada from communist Poland so they could be free from oppression.

 

He was also charged with trespassing and disturbing the peace. He spent one night in jail and is to appear in court on Sept. 7.

 

Insp. Ed Yeomans confirmed Pawlowski’s story, saying Wednesday’s arrest was the police’s second dealing with Pawlowski. “One vendor closed up her booth and others left the park because that man and his group were causing a disturbance to other users of the festival,” said Yeomans.

 

But the video shows clearly Pawlowski and his group did not approach vendors.

 

Do people have a right to read the Bible in a public place? Obviously, some don’t think so.

 

Many Calgarians will likely read this and shrug. But consider this: The video clearly shows six police officers attending to the calm Pawlowski. Your tax dollars at work, folks!

 

What’s ironic, said Pawlowski, was he saw a couple of known drug dealers watching as he got arrested.

 

Something’s not right with that picture.

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