Protesters call for end to Wisconsin’s mask mandate

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – A group of protesters gathered at the Capitol Saturday afternoon to protest Wisconsin’s mask mandate, a week after Governor Tony Evers’ order took effect. People came from across the state to voice their opposition.

Protesters carried signs and American flags, and some arrived armed with guns and knives.

“I’m hoping to see the mask mandate shot down,” said Rebecca Van Ess, who came to Madison from Fort Atkinson.

Van Ess said people need to get involved and make sure their elected officials are held accountable.

“We’re losing our country because we’re not involved, we’re not taking our right and our responsibility serious[ly],” Van Ess said.

“Wisconsin Against Mandatory Face Masks” rally right now at the Capitol. Some protesters came armed.

— Michelle Baik NBC15 (@michellebaik) August 8, 2020

Health officials have said wearing masks can slow the spread of COVID-19, but opponents worry the mandate will lead to more restrictions.

“Now it’s telling everyone to wear masks and then what’s next? They’re going to shut down the schools completely,” said Arlis Feidt, who drove two hours from Ozaukee County to be at the protest.

Opponents also argue masks make it hard to communicate, though the mandate does have medical exceptions, such as removing a mask when communicating with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing.

“People are wearing masks and I can’t understand what they’re saying,” Feidt explained.

Many speakers at the protest said, they are not against people choosing to wear masks. They are specifically against the mandate.

“We shouldn’t be forced to wear a mask,” Van Ess said.

People at the Capitol are protesting Governor Tony Evers’ statewide mask mandate. This started around 1 p.m. Speakers have said they are not totally against masks, they are against being forced to wear one. @nbc15_madison

— Sanika Bhargaw NBC15 (@SanikaBhargaw) August 8, 2020

Van Ess said she is already doing what she can to stay healthy, so she should be free to make her own choices when it comes to a mask.

“I practice building my immune system, eating healthy,” she said, continuing, “I’m worrying about taking care of myself which is what my responsibility is, that’s my job, nobody can make me healthy.”

Doctors and health officials have said repeatedly that wearing masks is most effective at slowing the spread of COVID-19 when everyone who can wear a mask does. The state mandate does have exceptions for young children and people with underlying health conditions.

Health officials have also said masks should be paired with other preventive measures like social distancing.

Police break up confrontation between two mask-wearing cyclists and protesters against the mask mandate.

— Michelle Baik NBC15 (@michellebaik) August 8, 2020

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