Anti-maskers wore Stars of David and taunted an assemblyman at a pair of meetings with city officials in Alaska, where COVID-19 cases have exploded and have overwhelmed the state's medical system.
The sparsely populated state is averaging nearly 1,300 new cases and 12 deaths per day, up a nationwide highest 72 percent over the past two weeks, but opponents -- including the mayor -- of a proposed mask ordinance packed into the Anchorage Assembly to compare the public health measure to oppression in Nazi Germany, reported the Anchorage Daily News.
"I oppose this ordinance because it is based on inconclusive science, because it is bad policy, and because it is an unconstitutional infringement on the freedom guaranteed to every Anchorage citizen by our federal and state constitutions," said Mayor Dave Bronson. "But most of all, I oppose this ordinance because it pits neighbor against neighbor, shop owner against customer and friend against friend."
Some opponents wore yellow Stars of David, with the words "Do no comply" written on them, that had been handed out by Christine Hill, who unsuccessfully ran for assembly in 2019 and 2020, and Bronson defended them.
"We've referenced the Star of David quite a bit here tonight, but there was a formal message that came out within Jewish culture about that and the message was, 'never again," Bronson said. "That's an ethos, and that's what that star really means is, 'We will not forget, this will never happen again,' and I think us borrowing that from them is actually a credit to them."
One man held up his Star of David to taunt assemblyman Forrest Dunbar, who is Jewish.
"It was heart-wrenching for me when I noticed individuals were wearing yellow Stars of David, mimicking my Jewish ancestors who perished during the Holocaust," Dunbar said, reading a letter from his rabbi, Abram Goodstein. "For myself and most Jews, seeing the yellow Star of David on someone's chest elicits the same feeling as seeing a swastika on a flag or the SS insignia on a uniform. It is a symbol of hate that reminds us Jews of the terror and horror we suffered. I believe it is a constitutional right to protest for your values. But I request that you do not use symbols that diminish the 6 million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust."
Both meetings, held Tuesday and Wednesday, saw frequent outbursts from opponents of the assembly's proposed mask mandate, and four people were arrested at the second meeting.
One man was charged with disorderly conduct and misconduct involving a weapon, which was a concealed handgun, and a woman was charged with disorderly conduct and two men charged with trespassing.
State officials activated crisis standards of care at Alaska hospitals, while the state-largest Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage announced this month it was rationing care -- which Bronson blamed on its vaccine requirement for employees.
"There's clear and convincing evidence that the use of facial masks and mask mandates in public settings reduces transmission and deaths from COVID-19. We know this from laboratory studies and real world evaluation of mask policies," said Dr. Tom Hennessy, a public health and preventative medicine specialist at University of Alaska Anchorage.
But opponents said they simply don't care, and called mask mandates "tyranny."
"If they have to wear masks," said one man, a youth sports coach, "they'll pull their kids out of basketball."