SALT LAKE CITY -- Hundreds of people gathered on the steps of the Utah State Capitol on Saturday evening to protest Governor Gary Herbert’s mask mandate in schools.
Members of the crowd ran through a giant mask and played a game of “pin the mask” on Governor Herbert.
It was the first major gathering since eight Utahns filed a lawsuit against the governor, accusing him of overstepping his executive powers.
Protesters said they were encouraged by the lawsuit along with a referendum in Provo that seeks to overturn the city’s new mask mandate.
“If a tyrant comes in, down down with that traitor! Down down!” said Tatia Nelson, quoting an unofficial fifth verse of the Star-Spangled Banner. “It’s not about masks versus non-masks. It’s about freedom to choose.”
Organizer Eric Moutsos said he feels like the debate over masks in Utah has only picked up steam over the past few months, partly because Governor Herbert expressed reluctance to issue a mask mandate at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The people didn’t speak up soon enough,” Moutsos said. “I would say eight out of ten people don’t want to be in a mask… What’s the point of trying to save life if we can’t live our life?”
There were plenty of varying opinions and theories among the people who attended the rally.
Some said they don’t believe any of the mask science being pushed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Some said they simply don’t believe masks are effective for children.
Other said they trust the CDC, they just don’t like being told what to do.
“I cannot mask. I pass out. I tried. I was at work – passed out,” Nelson said. “I don’t need to wear a mask… I’m not endangering anybody by not wearing a mask, but they are trying to endanger me.”
“If my mask doesn’t work because you’re wearing your mask, then I’ll take mine off and I’ll give it to you,” Moutsos said. “I support your right to wear the mask, because if your mask works then it shouldn’t matter if I have it, right?”
In reality, the CDC has recommended people wear masks primarily as a courtesy to protect others, not to protect themselves.
“My opinion is it does not protect either side!” Nelson said. “I know that (Governor Herbert) listens to each side… I really think they are good people who are misguided.”
Bob Hawthorne, who drove to the rally from Duchesne, said he has a similar opinion about masks as he does sunglasses.
“Children should never put a mask on. It’s criminal. Criminal,” Hawthorne said. “I don’t like the system of being lied to… It’s our government. Do they obey the laws of God? You answer that yourself.”
Most members of the crowd were optimistic regarding the lawsuit against Governor Herbert, citing the Utah Constitution.
“I love it, and I’ve read most of it… the Utah Constitution is even more powerful than the US Constitution in a lot of ways,” Moutsos said. “Whatever judge has this case, they’re going to have to make a very very difficult decision on political pressure.”
“Lawsuits are one way to have your voice be heard. I don’t think anybody’s after money, right?” Nelson agreed. “I am not doing to diss either side, but legislation cannot be tyrannical!”
Governor Herbert’s office has declined to comment on the lawsuit.