‘Everyone is believing a massive lie’; Moscow church organizes gathering of almost 200, three people arrested

MOSCOW, Idaho — Moscow Police arrested three people late Wednesday afternoon, when a local church held an event outside Moscow City Hall that involved nearly 200 people.

In early July, the City of Moscow put a face mask/covering and social distancing requirement in place to protect the community from the spread of COVID-19. Since then, police officers haven’t issued any tickets. Instead, officers have provided education.

Wednesday, police made three arrests and issued five citations in the course of 15 minutes at a ‘psalm sing’ outside city hall.

“You know, what do you do? We tried to give warning, we tried to work with them again. We tried to let them know what could happen. So we ended up doing some enforcement,” said Chief James Fry, Moscow Police Department.

Chief Fry told 4 News Now, knowing that Christ Church was planning on gathering at outside city hall, Moscow Police sent officers to the location before the psalm sing and painted around 150 social distancing markings on the ground.

Though, according to the Chief Fry, even with the extra signage his officers painted on the lot, it didn’t get people to follow the rules.

“Once they arrived, we talked to the leader and advised them that citations could be issued,” Chief Fry said. “He announced that and the crowd drew closer together.”

One of the three people arrested is a deacon at Christ Church in Moscow, Gabriel Rench.

“I just responded and said, ‘You don’t have to do this.’ And he said, ‘Please give me your identification.’ And I said, ‘You know this is wrong.’ And he said, ‘Please give me your identification.’ And I said, ‘I have a constitutional right to be here worshiping. The government can’t tell me when, where, how to worship,'” Rench said.

Rench doesn’t agree at all with any of the mandates, which is why he helped organize the psalm sing in Moscow. He said almost 200 people attended.

“The big issue here is that everyone is believing a massive lie,” Rench said. “This is like the emperor has no clothes, and they are wanting you to say that the emperor has clothes on. They want you to say that, they want your cameraman to say that. They want everyone to say that the emperor has clothes on, and the emperor doesn’t. We do not have a pandemic here in Latah County.”

Rench defends his actions, saying police did not protect him and other people from tyranny and arrested him.

“This is so much bigger than wearing a mask. And even then, if the government can tell you to wear a mask – they can tell me to wear a condom, they can tell me to stick a needle in my arm for a vaccine,” Rench said.

Chief Fry said this divide in beliefs has been ongoing throughout the pandemic.

“This is a tough time now for our community,” Chief Fry said. “On both sides, those who believe in masks and those who don’t believe in masks. We are stuck in the middle of that, to enforce and protect.”

All three people who were arrested Wednesday afternoon were released shortly after. The two other people arrested, along with Rench, were cited for Resisting and Obstructing police officers.