Defiant Mennonites Block Police Over Church Arrests

And while the state has imposed a curfew in those hotspots - police couldn't even make a detention in Blue Creek on Sunday.

That's after the cops arrested churchgoers who had gathered in numbers well above the allowed limit.

The faithful fought back on Sunday - and are holding that position tonight - demanding the right to congregate in worship.

Over the weekend we saw a flashpoint that could ignite an entire movement and pit church against state in yet another Covid time clash. Here's that story.

Blue Creek's "Klin de Mein de Mennonite Church" became the center of controversy this weekend when its leaders were arrested. They were found hosting an illegal activity, a church service with up to 200 attendees. It was a blatant quarantine violation and one that forced the police to take action but this morning when asked the Commissioner made it clear that it was one time he's been torn in his duties.

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police
"For the most part us Belizeans are Christian and we are god-fearing people and we try as best as we can not to stand in the way of god or not to interrupt those who are serving the good lord but at the same time we have to understand the times that we are in and we also have to abide by the law regardless of who we are."

But, worshippers say they abide by God's Law. That's why it was such a clash when the enforcers of man's laws, weapons in hand, walked right into a space that they consider sacred.

We asked the commissioner how he responded to those images:

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police
"Does the image with these over 300 persons or nearly 300 persons congregating in one setting without masks look good to you, does it, does that look good to you in Blue Creek in a time like this, you see these people did wrong and some of us are just divorcing ourselves from the wrong that they did and want to vilify or blame the police, the police have a job to do, it is not an easy one it is a tough one. The weapons they have are their assigned weapons. I did not see them pointing the gun at nobody the officer had the weapons held to him."

And it seems the police were very patient with the community because shortly after the arrests, the community blockaded the village exit - stopping police from leaving.

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police
"Subsequent to what the police did in Blue Creek there was indeed a blockage to the road to Blue Creek and the villagers were spoken to and they quickly removed the blockages and the road was cleared and so there will be no charges against those persons for that. We don't want it to appear as if we are having a fight or any sort of confrontation with the church. We are all Christians, we all believe in God, we are church goers as well for the time being we have to understand that there is a law in place that we all must follow."

"The church leaders were eventually released from custody and they were warned for summons so I would want to think that between today and tomorrow they will be served with their summons to appear in court."

It seems that in Blue Creek pandemic time measures are optional and based on a person's point of view.

Abram Rempel, Mayor of Blue Creek
"A mask there is not yet scientific proof that a mask will stop any virus. I personally believe that the mask will deteriorate your health. I personally believe that a mask has not stop any virus. Now I cannot speak for the whole congregation because that's where I have to take each individually person perspective, because I do not believe a mask because science is not behind it and statistic show that the mask covid infected people have been to the most better part wearing mask."

It's a very different stance from that of the Commissioner who says that he's worried about the damage that, that particular service-an event with super spreader potential- has already done.

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police
"We cannot continue to take this virus as a joke. It is spreading like wildfire especially in the North of the country and these people from Blue Creek who are gathering, these are people from the productive sector they are the ones that prepare our chicken, they are the ones who for the most part deal with agriculture products and so they leave Blue creek and come into the other parts of the country and so if they are infected then they take the infection with them wherever they go and they affect other people, and so as Belizeans, we all should be concerned about what was taking place in Blue Creek and start to think about what the consequences of that gathering is going to be in the next few days."

It seems the COMPOL is learning that whatever your scientific evidence you can't argue facts against faith. And as for the Mennonites of Blue Creek they have no fear of fellowship.

Cherisse Halsall, reporter
"Is it the belief of the congregation that as long as you are carrying out your mandate to worship God you are within that church protected from any disease?"

Abram Rempel, Mayor of Blue Creek
"We are always protected in the eternal realm. We are not protected health wise that you won't break your leg or get sick. Statistic show that Covid is 99.9% survivable. That does not mean that you did not get infected. That means that you have a sickness just like you can break you leg - you can all of a sudden lose your eye site. You can have a heart disease. You can have so many things. We believe in a father and a God that created us that knows all things. If we get sick we plea for healing, we take medicine because he has given doctors and we go in that realm. We don't foresee that we will forever be healthy on this planet. It will not be. We will be healthy in eternity."

7 churchgoers were detained but were subsequently released. They are supposed to be summoned to Orange Walk's magistrate court for failure to wear masks, hosting an illegal activity, and failure to adhere to social distance.

The congregation intends to proceed with this Sunday's church service.

And, if there are votes to be gotten, the PUP might be lining up in the pews with them.

A release from the party says it, quote, "strongly condemns the arrest of Villagers of Blue Creek by members of the Belize Police Department. The Villagers were peacefully attending church on the sacred Sunday when the police arrested them. This was completely unnecessary.

The PUP believes that the matter could have been handled in a respectful manner and there was absolutely no need for the arrests." End quote.

Channel 7

Chester Williams: ‘Blue Creek is far more reckless than motorcade”

Across the country, political motorcades are still being held, despite serious objections and public health concerns being raised by the Belize Police Department.  Over the weekend there were motorcades in Jalacte and Silver Creek villages held by the People’s United Party, as well as the United Democratic Party.  While arrests have been made in respect of previous gatherings, including a recent incident in Red Bank, ComPol Williams says that the incident in Blue Creek was more reckless in nature because of the mass gathering.

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police

“This whole issue with this political climate where politicians also believe that they are immune from prosecution, I have been harping to my officers to enforce the Quarantine Regulations despite who the person or persons are who are in violation.  And while I have seen where some sort to draw comparisons between Blue Creek and the motorcades, I still believe that what happened in Blue Creek is far more outrageous and reckless than the motorcade.  That is no consolation than those who organize those motorcades are not supposed to be looked and see if there is any violation.”

Channel 5