Anti-mask protesters removed from Black Mountain Town Council meeting
BLACK MOUNTAIN - Seven protesters were removed by police from the Town Council meeting Aug. 9 after refusing to comply with the town's requirement that people wear masks or face coverings at all public meetings.
"I think most people understand that what we're attempting to do is to keep the public safe," said Mayor Larry Harris. "Almost everybody has a different attitude about something about almost any aspect of the virus."
Despite requests by the council members, mayor and town manager to put on a mask, the protesters refused, resulting in police entering the meeting to remove the group.
"What you're doing is against the law," one protester told the council. Others echoed his sentiment.
Protesters demanded to know the rationale of the town officials for requiring masks, asking questions such as, "Where is it in the state statutes?" or stating that a mandate is different from a law.
"You're all serving Satan," one man yelled as police escorted him out. "You don't even know what's going on in the world, do you? Do you know there's already been 200,000 people die from this vaccine?"
According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the COVID-19 vaccines have been administered to millions of people in the U.S. under the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history. Although there have been minor incidents of anaphylaxis and thrombosis, severe reactions and deaths due to complications are exceedingly rare. Roughly 2 to 5 people per every million experienced anaphylaxis, and there have been only 39 confirmed cases of thrombosis due to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
As protesters continued to demand an explanation of how officials could legally remove them from the public meeting, Town Attorney Ron Sneed addressed the public.
"On the onset of the delta variant of the virus, the mayor reinstated our declaration of emergency and established protocols to protect the public and this body," Sneed said. "And that is the law. Under the statutes and under the ordinances, the mayor is allowed to do that."
The town of Black Mountain has remained in a declared state of emergency since March 2020. According to Sneed, while the mayor may take into account medical exemptions if a written excuse is provided, under the town ordinance issued by the continued state of emergency, police have the right to escort those without masks from the room.
The protesters continued to make claims as to why they didn't have to wear masks, one going so far as to say that wearing masks and remaining 6 feet apart has historically been shown to be part of a satanic ritual.
"You can laugh but it's true," she asserted. "It's about money and control. It's not about our well-being."
The mayor was forced to call for order multiple times as the crowd grew unruly. Harris explained that the council had approved the mask mandate the previous Thursday while police gathered outside the building.
The mayor and the Town Council took the opportunity of the meeting to formally announce the reinstatement of COVID-19 protocols as well as a mask mandate for town employees and public meetings. The town employee regulations became effective Aug. 11.
The council voted once again to affirm its understanding of the ordinance with every member of the council in agreement. The policy will be reviewed at the September agenda meeting of the Town Council.
"Hopefully if we move forward through this, we'll get to a better place and take the mask off again," Harris said.