By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - A Polish-born Canadian pastor who faces a four-year prison term in Canada for leading church services despite coronavirus restrictions says the “tyranny” of formerly communist Poland has reached the West.
Pastor Artur Pawlowski, 48, spoke after a prayer rally he organized in the U.S. city of Portland in Oregon was attacked by suspected followers of the far-left-leaning militant Antifa movement.
Footage seen by Worthy News showed black-clad members of Antifa apparently using tear gas and destroying sound equipment during the rally earlier this month. They also assaulted worshipers and scoffed that God had abandoned them.
Portland police watched as Antifa rioters bear-sprayed Christians and their children and lobbed “flash bombs” into the crowd, witnesses said.
Dressed in black and riot gear, armed Antifa physically confronted Christian attendees, footage showed. One of the attackers sprayed a congregant with what appeared to be pepper spray. “Where is your God now?” an Antifa follower was overheard shouting.
A woman attending the August 7 prayer event described the group as “ruthless.”
“Antifa just rolled in like an angry mob, started throwing flash bombs at everybody, macing everybody ... rotten eggs,” she said. “They threw a flash bomb into a group of kids that were out there from 4 months old to like 10,” the woman added in footage monitored by Worthy News.
Pawlowski, who serves as pastor of Street Church and Cave of Adullam Church in Calgary, in the western Canadian province of Alberta, was also sprayed in the face with mace. He was treated for injuries by shocked Christians.
Portland has become a magnet for clashes between political extremists since last year. On Sunday, rival far-right and left-wing groups engaged in clashes, and at least one man was arrested for firing a gun at demonstrators. There were no reports of injuries.
Critics say the defunded police are reluctant to intervene in clashes. However, Police Chief Chuck Lovell defended this police style. "Just because arrests are not made at the scene when tensions are high does not mean that people won't be charged with crimes."
But Pastor Pawlowski warned Americans that their situation becomes similar to life under the former communist dictatorship of Poland, where he grew up.
The recent Antifa attack against his prayer rally on the banks of Portland’s Willamette River, which Pawlowski organized with local churches, came ahead of his possible four-year sentence in neighboring Canada.
Video seen by Worthy News showed Canadian police detaining him earlier this year for holding an “illegal in-person gathering” and “promoting and attending an illegal gathering” in Calgary.
Artur and his brother Dawid Pawlowski were arrested in May after violating coronavirus restrictions for months by holding large church gatherings indoors, without masks.
Footage seen by Worthy News showed the pastor being handcuffed and dragged in the street by police officers. Police accused him of organizing a church service in violation of a public health order restricting gatherings amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pawlowski said in published remarks that he was treated harshly by police. He described his arrest as “painful” and “actual torture,” calling the entire ordeal “unbelievable.”
When he was detained, Pawlowski said he was denied access to a Bible. “We have become political prisoners in Canada because we dare to challenge their corruption,” the pastor argued. “Because that’s what it is, the whole system is corrupted. The politicians are corrupt people.”
The preacher condemned the justice system as a whole. He warned that if Canadian officials “can do this to me, they can do this to you.”
Pawlowski became well known on social media when footage emerged this Easter showing him kicking law enforcement officers out of his church. He has since been released from a jail cell, which he described as “filthy,” and is now out on bail. The Polish-Canadian pastor has reportedly called local police “Gestapo” and “Nazis.”
Organizing church services amid a pandemic has led to divisions among believers.
While several church groups view a ban on church services as persecution, others see online gatherings as a legitimate temporary alternative.