- Police officers shut down an Easter service at a south London church on Good Friday.
- Worshippers were threatened with £200 ($276) fines or even being arrested.
- A local Polish Catholic Mission representative said that the police had “brutally exceeded their powers.”
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Video footage has emerged of police officers shutting down a Good Friday service for breaching the UK’s coronavirus restrictions.
Prayers were interrupted at Christ the King Polish Church in South London when Metropolitan Police officers entered the building on Friday evening, Sky News reported.
Two officers then took over the pulpit and issued warnings to the church’s worshippers, the video shows.
One officer can be heard telling the congregation that the gathering was “unfortunately unlawful” under COVID-19 restrictions in the UK.
While there are no numerical limits on church attendance, England’s current lockdown rules specify that places of worship must social distance, and public health requirements must be met.
In the clip, the officer goes on to demand that the worshippers return home.
“Failure to comply…. ultimately could lead to you being fined £200 ($276) or, if you fail to give your details, to you being arrested,” he says.
Shortly after, the officer tells the congregation to leave the building and the church clears. It becomes empty in little under five minutes.
The Metropolitan Police said in a statement that officers attended the church after responding to reports of crowds lining up outside.
Officers then found “a large number of people inside,” many of whom were not wearing masks or socially distancing, the statement said. No penalties were issued, the police added.
A representative of Polish Catholic Mission Balham wrote on their website Saturday that the police had “brutally exceeded their powers.”
The statement claims that the Metropolitan Police were misinformed on worship guidelines and advises those in attendance on how to complain to authorities about the disruption.
“We regret that the rights of the faithful have been wronged on such an important day for every believer,” the parish added.
The Archbishop of Southwark, John Wilson, has since visited the church to discuss the incident, BBC News reported.
The Rector of the Catholic Polish Mission, Stefan Wylezek, intends to contact the Metropolitan Police to discuss the handling of the situation, Reuters said.
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