UK police invaded a church in southwest London during a Good Friday service and shut it down because "too many people" were in attendance. Local reports identified that clergy and congregants at Christ the King Roman Catholic Church in Balham, at what's a predominantly Polish neighborhood church, were threatened with a fine equivalent to multiple hundreds of dollars, or possible arrest if they didn't leave.
UK police officers are breaking up masses during Easter. Do they really feel that they are serving the public good? Video from Balham, SW London.pic.twitter.com/OU6l4XjxPz— Benjamin Loughnane (@Loknayn) April 3, 2021
The police appeared to literally burst in mid-service and acknowledged it was among the most important Christian holy days of the year before ordering people to disperse.
"I appreciate that it is Good Friday, and you’d like to worship, but this gathering is unlawful," an officer is heard announcing.
The church is accusing Metropolitan police of "brutally exceeding their powers":
A message posted on the church's website on Saturday says: "On Good Friday, 2 April 2021, during the Liturgy of the Lord's Passion, at the time of the Adoration of the Cross, the police arrived at the door of our church at around 6pm.
We were not allowed to finish the celebration. The police officers found our liturgical assembly illegal, ordering everyone to leave our temple immediately or face a £200 fine for each parishioner present, or even arrest.
The faithful obeyed this order without objection.
We believe, however, that the police brutally exceeded their powers by issuing their warrant for no good reason, as all government requirements were met."
Here's full video showing multiple officers disrespectfully milling about the altar area and sanctuary while threatening church-goers with arrest:
The past year has witnessed similar scenes in other churches and religious communities. It's further no doubt sent UK churches and Christian communities on edge over the potential "breaking of Covid rules" as people exercise freedom of worship.
Metropolitan Police in addressing the Good Friday incident in Balham seemed to suggest there will be more such crackdowns to come:
"This was one of a series of numerous events taking place at the church over the Easter period. We are engaging with church authorities today and will continue to do so in the coming days," a police statement said.
Describing the incident, the Metropolitan Police said, "At around 1700hrs on Friday, 2 April, officers were called to a report of crowds of people queuing outside a church in Balham High Road."
"Officers attended and found a large number of people inside the church. Some people were not wearing masks and those present were clearly not socially distanced." They expressed "concern" for transmission of the virus, despite the United Kingdom this past week making headlines for the positive development that it recently witnessed its second day in 2021 of zero reported deaths from COVID-19.
Absolutely disgraceful. Police shut down Good Friday service in Polish Church, Balham yesterday.— Luke de Pulford 裴倫德 (@lukedepulford) April 3, 2021
“I appreciate that it is Good Friday, and you’d like to worship, but this gathering is unlawful” pic.twitter.com/cEVuZamVdi
"We are particularly concerned about the risk of transmission of the Covid-19 virus as a result of large indoor gatherings at which people are not socially distanced and some are not wearing masks. As such, officers made the decision that it was not safe for that particular service to continue," the police explained.
The Metropolitan Police has warned people not to gather in large groups over the Easter weekend after coronavirus restrictions were loosened https://t.co/tO1udgsaN3— Sky News (@SkyNews) April 2, 2021
The incident unleashed a storm of anger online; however, headed into the first busy Easter weekend where in many places across Europe and the United States lockdowns have been relaxed, and people are eager to get back to "normal" - which includes being able to practice their faith in peace - there's likely to be more confrontations with police and "Covid enforcers" to come.
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And elsewhere in parts of the West still subject to "lockdown" and restrictions on movement and ability to assemble...
BREAKING: A Polish pastor just threw out the police who tried to shut down his church in Calgary pic.twitter.com/QjoNx1W47y— Jack Posobiec (@JackPosobiec) April 4, 2021