Hundreds of people packed into a county commission meeting in Utah on Wednesday to protest Republican Gov. Gary Herbert’s requirement that students wear masks in school this fall.
The meeting of the Utah County Commission in Provo was ultimately postponed because the crowd was not in compliance with social-distancing guidelines. Members of the standing-room-only crowd reportedly pulled tape off seats meant to enforce social distancing, and almost none wore masks.
Even though the meeting was postponed, the protesters spoke for hours after two commissioners agreed to listen to their concerns. One woman spit gum into a mask and called it “garbage” before wadding it up, according to a report from the Salt Lake Tribune. Others referred to COVID-19 “a hoax” and “a political stunt,” and said wearing masks would “rewire” children’s brains and leave their minds “broken.”
One teacher who opposes the mask requirement noted that students aren’t allowed to wear them on Halloween — “Why change that now?” she said. When another teacher spoke in support of the mask requirement, the crowd shouted her down and told her to find another job.
The protesters were led by Commissioner Bill Lee, who addressed them outside before the meeting and wants the county to send a letter to the state seeking a “compassionate exemption” from the school mask requirement.
But after the protesters packed into the meeting room, County Commissioner Tanner Ainge immediately made a motion to adjourn. “This is the exact opposite of what we need to be doing,” Ainge said. “We should be physically distancing and wearing masks. This room is not complying with those health guidelines.”
More from the Tribune: They wore “Trump 2020” hats and carried little American flags, and every time someone said “freedom” or “constitutional rights” the whole room cheered. Almost no one wore a mask; those who did had them pulled under their chins. … When the meeting started, Commissioner Tanner Ainge declared he wouldn’t support so many people in the boardroom not social distancing. He made a motion to adjourn and hear the proposal from Lee another day in a bigger space. The board’s third member, Nathan Ivie, voted in favor and Lee against. After the 2-1 decision, Ainge walked out. … A torrent of boos followed with shouts of “Down with Tanner Ainge” and “He’s trying to silence us” and “Vote him out.” One teacher said, “Our classrooms are fuller than this.”
As he left the meeting, Ainge was confronted by a protester who subsequently experienced a panic attack and had be taken to a hospital by paramedics.
KSL.com reports: Denna Robertson, one of the rally organizers, said she’s “absolutely” comfortable sending children back to school without masks. She said wearing masks is not a public health issue because she believes COVID-19 was manufactured in a lab. “Coronavirus is man-made. It’s a weaponized virus,” Robertson said. She accused Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, and business magnate and philanthropist Bill Gates of being part of creating the virus to usher in “a new world order” by reducing the world population to 5 million people. Robertson, who’s also a mother and grandmother, said she isn’t concerned about contracting the virus from one of her grandchildren. “If I’m infected with COVID, it’s because I’ve not been taking care of my immune system. You know how your immune system gets strong? It’s by being in the dirt and getting exposed to bacteria and viruses,” Robertson said.
Watch a report from the local ABC affiliate, and check out a few more reactions from Twitter, below.