Anti-mask demonstrators derailed Utah County commission meeting about the state mandate requiring schoolchildren to wear face coverings when classes begin.
About 150 parents wearing “Trump 2020” hats and carrying American flags crowded into the small meeting room, pulled tape off seats to mark social distancing space and cheered every time someone mentioned “freedom” or “constitutional rights,” reported The Salt Lake Tribune.
“This is the exact opposite of what we need to be doing,” said commissioner Tanner Ainge, who then called off the meeting. “We should be physically distancing and wearing masks. This room is not complying with those health guidelines.”
Fellow commissioner Bill Lee had called the meeting to propose a vote on a “compassionate exemption” to Gov. Gary Herbert’s statewide school mask mandate, but Ainge said the county didn’t have that authority over the school district.
“The fact that we had it on our agenda, we had nothing to do with it,” said Ainge. “That would be like the school board holding a meeting to discuss the appropriate level of funding for the county sheriff’s department.”
Lee walked into the room wearing a mask, but took it off at the crowd’s urging, and drew claps and whistles when he said he didn’t like government mandates.
The crowd yelled and screamed at counter-protesters outside who were advocating for mask usage as “an act of compassion.”
“It’s an act of submission,” one of the protesters yelled. “Jesus gives us a choice, and mandates are against freedom.”
One couple brought their two children to the demonstration, and the protesters screamed at the family for wearing masks.
“Get that mask off that poor little boy,” a protester yelled.
Carrie Hall placed her arm around her son to protect him, the newspaper reported, and tried to explain why masks were necessary during a coronavirus pandemic.
“I’d rather wear a tiny piece of cloth than spread COVID,” the seventh-grader added.
One protester walked up to the podium to speak, grabbed a face mask and spit her gum into it.
“It’s garbage,” she shrugged, wadding up the mask. “It doesn’t work anyway. Not for me and not for my kids.”
Outside, protesters carried signs that read “Don’t smother the children” and “Let kids be kids. No masks!”
“This mandate for the children to wear masks is baloney,” said Cynthia Harding inside the meeting room. “We have the right to make our own choices.”
Tammy Barker, who has two school-age children, later told KTVX-TV that she disagreed with the science on masks.
“I want to stand up and be a voice for the children that they don’t have to wear masks back at school,” Barker said. “I think that the science is not there, I think that there’s contradictory information every day.”