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Reporting from the St. George area focused on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues and faith and spirituality.

Utah’s Mask Mandate Sparks Anti-Government Protests In St. George

A photo of a protester in St. George carrying a flag that says "Don't tread on me."
Lexi Peery
Protesters marched in downtown St. George and called for an end to the governor’s state of emergency and mask mandate.

Around 100 maskless protesters waved “Don’t tread on me” flags and chanted “freedom” while marching around St. George Wednesday evening. They were protesting Gov. Gary Herbert’s latest COVID-19 health orders and mask mandate, which they think is the latest example of government overreach.

James Stasinos, 56, said he is against the mask requirement because he sees it as a slippery slope to more government control.

“The bottom line for me is it goes against my individual freedoms,” Stasinos said. “I think we should never be forced to do anything and that’s what America was founded on — that’s why we got away from the motherland, is because of how our freedoms are jeopardized.”

A photo of Richard and Janet Falconer holding an American flag and sign that says "freedom is never free."
Lexi Peery
Richard and Janet Falconer joined around 100 other people in St. George to protest the state’s mask mandate and public health orders.

Richard Falconer, 67, and his wife Janet marched holding a sign saying “Freedom is never free.” Falconer said it’s not just the mask mandate for him — he’s also concerned that Utahns are being asked to only socialize with people in their households.

“We’re going down a very bad path, and there’s no need for it,” he said. “I’ll get sick if I have to, oh well, I’ve been sick before.”

Holding her big yellow “Don’t tread on me” flag, Patricia Kent, 69, said she doesn’t believe in the efficacy of masks — though multiple studies have shown masks are effective in slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

“Give the people the opportunity to give and create their own solutions to this,” Kent said. “We don’t need someone telling us what to do, we’re intelligent people. Get the government off of our backs and let us mandate for ourselves what is healthy.”

But University of Utah law professor Teneille Brown said, though people may not like them, the governor’s orders are lawful.

“There's a very strong libertarian streak of thinking that the Constitution means that we can't even infringe a tiny bit on people's liberty, which is just not the case,” Brown said.

There’s precedent in U.S. law, she said, that government officials can infringe on people’s liberties if it’s based on science and not used in discriminatory ways.

Brown added, mask wearing can be viewed in the same light as wearing a seatbelt or not smoking inside a public place — these are things that have been proven to improve public health.

But at this point, she said there’s no amount of science that will change some people’s minds. And for these orders to matter, there needs to be actual enforcement.

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
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