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Hundreds gather outside Canadian church closed for breaching Covid restrictions

Around 400 people gathered outside a church in Canada after police closed the building for violating coronavirus restrictions. 

Grace Life Church in Alberta was officially closed earlier this month following continued rows with the police over breaking capacity and social distancing rules while holding in-person services. 

Pastor James Coates, the leader of the church, was recently fined with the equivalent of over £1,000 after spending 35 days in jail for not complying with restrictions. 

On Sunday, hundreds of people gathered outside the church, which has been barricaded and fenced off by police, singing, reading the Bible and with some holding placards reading "stop communism" and "enough tyranny". 

However, The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), which is representing Pastor Coates and Grace Life church, released a statement saying people attending the protest were not members of the church. 

"Grace Life Church appreciates the public outpouring of support to fully open churches in Alberta. Grace Life Church congregants were not at the protest that occurred on Sunday, April 11, 2021 near the Church's facility.
"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," JCCF said in a statement.

"It is time to end these unscientific, unjustified and arbitrary lockdown measures."

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said in a statement: "The RCMP uses necessary measures to protect the fundamental freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, to promote the safety of all citizens, to enforce laws and to maintain peace and order. 

"In turn, it must be recognised that while everyone has a right to peaceful freedom of expression; the general public, local residents and businesses also have the right to a safe environment."

Alberta Health Services said the church will remain closed until it proves it will comply with restrictions. 

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