At a rally organized by a local city councilman, more than 150 protesters gathered outside city hall in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Wednesday to protest recent mask mandates from the city and Maricopa County.
With confirmed cases of Covid-19 and associated hospitalizations spiking across Arizona, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey gave local communities the authority to require masks last week.
Conservative Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane issued a mask mandate Thursday.
“I recognize completely the intrusive nature of this directive,” said Lane, but added, “we have a civic responsibility to act and sometimes accept actions that are important for recovery.”
On Saturday, Councilman Guy Phillips posted a flyer on Facebook entitled “Unmask Us!”, asking residents to join him Wednesday to protest mandatory mask-wearing.
The flyer requested, “Any Citizen of AZ who believes wearing a mask is a personal choice, and not a mandate” to “put your best face forward.”
When first introduced at Wednesday’s rally, Councilman Phillips twice shouted, “I can’t breathe” (words uttered by George Floyd and Eric Garner as they died while being forcibly detained by police), before ripping off his mask.
Mayor Lane told Forbes late Wednesday that “Councilman Phillips comments at his anti-mask protest rally today at City Hall do not represent the values of our Scottsdale community. I share the profound disappointment expressed by many residents at the words Mr. Phillips chose– to use the phrase ‘I can’t breathe’ during this moment in time was callous and insensitive.”
3,591 new cases of Covid-19 were reported Tuesday in Arizona, the highest single-day total in the state since the start of the pandemic, according to updated data provided by the Arizona Department of Health Services. The state also reached a new high for hospitalizations Tuesday, with 86% of inpatient beds and 88% of ICU beds in use. Over the past week, Arizona has had the largest increase in daily confirmed cases per capita in America, as the state’s seven-day rolling average has risen to 39 cases per 100,000 residents. According to the Washington Post’s tracker, that’s more than double the next-highest state, South Carolina, at 19 per 100,000 residents. Although the number of new cases dipped a bit on Wednesday, the state reported 79 coronavirus-related deaths, up from 42 deaths on Tuesday. According to the CDC and the vast majority of health experts and scientists, a face covering has proven to be effective at limiting the spread of Covid-19.
In addition to Councilman Phillips, Daniel McCarthy, who is challenging Republican Martha McSally for her Senate seat in the upcoming August primary, also spoke. According to the Arizona Central, McCarthy described the city and county mask mandates as a “communist insurrection.” Reporter Erica Stapelton of local affiliate News12 tweeted that one protester “suggested there be a mask burning.”
The so-called 1918 Spanish Flu was the most severe pandemic in recent history. According to the CDC, it is estimated that about 500 million people, or one-third of the world’s population, became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide, with about 675,000 occurring in the United States. Yet, back in January of 1919, in the middle of this pandemic, a few thousand people gathered in San Francisco to protest against measures meant to slow the spread of the virus. Many of the protesters at the meeting claimed the mandates were trampling on their constitutional rights, while a few others argued that the measures weren’t working anyway. The group called itself the Anti-Mask League.
More than 150 people attend protest against mask mandates in Scottsdale (Arizona Central)
Face masks work. They need to be mandatory (USA Today)