The actions of two officers from the Calgary Police Service (CPS) in Canada have come under public scrutiny following the arrest of a 21-year-old man for refusing to follow the country’s COVID restrictions.
Last week, police officers responded to an outdoor ice rink after receiving a request for assistance from Calgary Bylaw Services about a large group of people playing in a hockey game in violation of Alberta’s Public Health Act. CTV News reports that approximately 40 people were playing hockey together.
“Despite signage outlining the rules at the site, Bylaw Services was called,” police wrote in a statement. “They explained the restrictions but could not get the users to comply. Due to their non-compliance and the size of the group, we were called to assist.”
After the two officers arrived at the Southwood rink, they told the players to disperse after explaining the province’s health orders.
That’s when an interaction between Ocean Wiesblatt, 21, and the officers was captured on video. According to police, he refused to give them his name or provide identification. Under Canadian law, a person is required to identify themselves if they are being issued a ticket or they can be charged with obstruction.
The video shows the two officers trying to arrest Wiesblatt, which quickly turns physical and while an officer pulls a taser on the young man, the other uses profanity. After Wiesblatt is subdued he can be heard yelling profanities, and said, “Where’s our freedom? These police are handcuffing me. We are outside.”
Twelve-year-old Rayan Sanoubar, who shot the video with his phone, described to Global News what happened next.
“They had him on the ground for six minutes, just frozen, cutting his skates off with a knife. They arrested him and threatened us saying, ‘We are going to give you tickets if you don’t walk away,'” Sanoubar said.
“The officers explained this legal requirement to the man and tried multiple times to get him to voluntarily step off the ice and comply with their orders before they moved in to physically take him into custody. At this point, a struggle ensued and an officer was knocked to the ground,” Corwin Odland, with CPS public affairs told the outlet.
Wiesblatt was arrested and placed in the back of a patrol car. He later told CTV News that he received tickets for resisting arrest and obstructing an officer. He also notes that one ticket was for violating the Public Health Act, which carries a fine of $1,200.
“The rules are getting ridiculous,” he said.
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Once the video was posted to social media, local residents claimed the police officers were at fault.
One user wrote, “As a mother of a hockey player, my blood is boiling. This is beyond contemptible. #NotMyCanada.”
Another user commented, “When people are arrested for playing outdoor ice hockey in Canada, you know that the country is over. This has nothing to do with an epidemic, and everything to do with a war on Canada’s culture & customs. The epidemic is nothing but an excuse to carry out state rogue behavior.”
On a Southwood community Facebook page, one user gave a different opinion.
“The guy arrested was 21…no longer a kid,” the user wrote. “He would not comply with what the police were telling him to do. In my opinion, I think the police were doing their job.”
The CPS, however, said the video only showed a part of the interaction between their officers and the young man.
“The arrest ended up happening because there was non-compliance,” CPS Supt. Ryan Ayliffe told reporters on Friday. “We will not tolerate people that don’t want to willfully comply.”
The CPS said citizens have the right to contest tickets, charges, and laws they think are unjust, but that right needs to be exercised in court and not by refusing to obey lawful instructions from officers.
And police officials said they understand the public’s frustration.
“We completely understand the frustrations these restrictions cause as our families are grappling with them too. However, our job is to enforce the laws that our elected governments put in place and our members do their best to gain voluntary compliance,” the police said in a statement.
On Friday, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi told a news conference the outdoor skating rinks are open.
“If there are other people on the rink, you don’t have to go home. You can still stay out there. You shouldn’t really start lots of big games of pick-up hockey with people around you,” he said.
The mayor did not give a guideline on how many people can be on the rink at any given time.
“There’s no hard and fast rule on how many people can be on the rink, but it’s one of those things like the US Supreme Court said about pornography — you know it when you see it,” he said.
CBC News reports Calgary police officers have issued 11 tickets this week for violations of provincial public health orders, along with nine tickets for non-compliance with the city’s mask bylaw.
Ryan Pleckaitis, the city’s chief bylaw officer, said Friday that the Calgary Police Service would continue to focus its enforcement on “superspreader events,” including large protests, bars, nightclubs, and large religious gatherings not complying with occupancy limits.
As CBN News reported earlier this month, churches can hold online services but are not allowed to hold in-person services.