As Palm Beach County, Florida, battles an alarming spike in coronavirus cases, some speakers at a heated public hearing attacked county commissioners as “communist dictators” who follow “the devil’s laws” as they prepared to vote on a mandate for wearing face masks in public.
During public comments before the unanimous vote in favor of the mask requirement on Tuesday, a majority of speakers opposed the move, according to local news station WPTV. Some of these speakers, as The Daily Beast reports, denied that masks were effective against spreading COVID-19 and accused officials of playing God, violating the Constitution and threatening freedom and lives by imposing the measure.
One speaker threatened to perform a citizen’s arrests on the officials for going “against the freedom of choice.”
“Every single one of you that’s obeying the devil’s laws are going to be arrested. And you are going to be arrested for crimes against humanity,” the woman declared.
“Every single one of you has a smirk behind that little mask, but every single one of you are going to get punished by God. You cannot escape God … not even with the mask or 6 feet.”
The woman touched on several other theories, including a suggestion that the public officials could be part of a “deep state” of rogue officials.
Another woman told commissioners, “I want to know who is getting paid off and where is the mandate coming from.”
“Well, guess what, the riots are spreading, too!” she continued. “And what the hell are we going to do about that? We’re going to arrest patriots for not wearing a mask? That’s what you want?”
She concluded her remarks: “And I say Trump 2020!”
COVID-19 cases in the county have surged since it entered the first phase of Florida’s reopening plan on May 11, Dr. Alina Alonso, director of the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County, said during her testimony at the hearing.
“Our numbers are going in the wrong direction,” she said. She reminded attendees that masks are intended to protect both themselves and others. People are entitled to their rights, she said, but these public health laws are intended for people’s safety.
Vice Mayor Robert Weinroth, who strongly opposed a mask mandate previously, said the surge in cases had changed his mind.
“I hate the idea of talking about mandatory face coverings. It goes against my grain,” Weinroth said. “But the numbers we saw this week were just out of this world.”
One man, who identified himself as Butch Dias and “an American patriot,” said that he “would die” for the Constitution, which he said commissioners were failing to uphold.
“You probably already have your orders already taken care of. You don’t really care. You could have at least faked it. You do not care about We the People. It’s pathetic. It breaks my heart, because I would die for that flag, I would die for this country and I would die for the Constitution,” he said.
A speaker who said she had a medical condition that prevented her from wearing a mask told the commissioners she didn’t believe there was any evidence that masks prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“You’re not God,” she told the panel. “You’re removing our freedoms and stomping on our constitutional rights by these communist dictatorship orders… If you do vote to mandate masks in the workplace and public schools and stores, the death of many will be on your hands.”
The hearing erupted into chaos after the vote; some in the audience screamed insults and threats at the commissioners.
From Thursday, masks will be required in public places in Palm Beach County.
You can watch a recording of the meeting below.