ST PAUL, Minn. — Wrapped in the flag and free of masks, demonstrators gathered elbow to elbow on the state capitol mall to protest Minnesota’s mask mandate.
“If I choose not to wear a mask into a business, that should be my right,” an organizer told the crowd through a bullhorn. “If I want to risk something that’s on me.”
Jim Lahr stood with a small group of protesters nearby. “It’s just a big hoax,” the Ramsey man said of the global pandemic. “It’s all about control, fear - control you through fear,” he added.
Lahr said he considers the mask mandate an over-reach by government and part of a plan to destroy capitalism.
“By destroying the small businesses, that’s their way of ushering in socialism,” he said.
State troopers stood nearby, keeping anti-mask demonstrators from mixing with people rallying in support of the family of Elijah McClain, a young black Colorado man killed by police a year ago this month.
In that group, not a bare face could be found.
“We need to take the science seriously,” a masked Marie LePage said. We wear seatbelts, we do a lot of other things that are for everybody’s best interest and our own best interests.”
Seated in the grass, a few away, Tate Tufte kept his mouth and nose covered too. “It’s just a cloth mask that saves people, so what’s the negative,” he said.
Standing off to the side, wearing a Trump cap, John Eustice saw plenty of negatives in mask-wearing.
“What pandemic?” he asked, calling into question the recommendations of healthcare professionals.
“I think it’s about the Dems trying to control things and make Trump look bad,” Eustice said.
Anti-mask protesters, some toting guns, also displayed their contempt for the media.
“KARE 11, we want you gone,” a rally organizer shouted as she walked her bullhorn into the lens of a news photographer. “You’re fake news,” she said, turning on a siren.
Demonstrators surrounded, grabbed and taunted the KARE 11 crew until state troopers moved in, pulling the news crew out as the crowd cheered.
“Bye, Bye KARE 11,” a protester shouted.
“Bring back real journalists,” another screamed into the camera.