Hundreds gather at Edmonton Remand Centre to protest arrest of pastor who broke COVID-19 rules

Hundreds of people gathered outside of the Edmonton Remand Centre on Saturday afternoon, protesting the arrest of pastor James Coates.

The GraceLife Church pastor was arrested for breaking COVID-19 rules and was initially set to be released on bail Wednesday. However, Coates was kept in custody after he appeared before a judge and confirmed he would not abide by the conditions of his release from a previous arrest.

The church and its pastor have repeatedly violated public health restrictions put in place to reduce transmission of COVID-19. The public health rules include a 15 per cent capacity and physical distancing measures.

Coates was fined in December, Alberta Health Services ordered the church to close in January and then Coates was arrested and charged in early February for contravention of the Public Health Act.

He turned himself in on Tuesday.

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“He was charged with two counts of contravention of the Public Health Act and charged for failing to comply with a condition of his undertaking, under the Criminal Code,” RCMP said Wednesday.

Read more: Alberta pastor who defied COVID-19 rules refuses bail conditions, remains in custody

The protesters on Saturday were tightly gathered outside the prison, many without masks, with some holding signs calling for the release of Coates.

Current rules for outdoor gatherings in Alberta set an outdoor limit of 10 people per gathering, as long as people are following social distancing rules.

Coates is due in court again on Feb. 24.

Protesters at the Edmonton Remand Centre on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Global News
Protesters outside the Edmonton Remand Centre on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Global News
Protesters outside of the Edmonton Remand Centre on Feb. 20, 2021. Global News

Read more: Protesters gather from across the province at Alberta legislature to fight COVID-19 health measures

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A separate COVID-19-related protest focused on restrictions was held in Edmonton at the legislature on Saturday.

Alberta added 380 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday as well as seven additional deaths from the disease.

–with files from Emily Mertz, Global News

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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