For the second time in a week, heavy rain fell while demonstrators gathered in Indianapolis to protest governmental orders to wear a mask to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
The uncooperative weather hasn’t seemed to dampen their ardor.
On Monday, about 60 demonstrators without face coverings gathered on the south side of the Indiana Statehouse, as speakers came forward to talk about ways they feel that the government has overstepped, especially during the pandemic.
Some participants held signs that said “Don’t mask my liberty,” and “A mask is a muzzle,” while others wore T-shirts that said “No mask, don’t ask.”
“I have no problem with the governor leading and saying, ‘Listen, we think these are the things that we need to do to do what we want to get accomplished,’ but the reality is that’s where it should have stopped,” said Andy Lyons, an organizer of the event.
The mask mandate, which was signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb on Friday and went into effect Monday, requires everyone older than 8 to wear a mask in public indoor spaces and public outdoor spaces where social distancing is not possible.
When first announcing the mask mandate last week, Holcomb said a violation of the order would be a class B misdemeanor. But the criminal penalties were removed when he signed the executive order Friday, a change that occurred after Holcomb received pushback over the penalties from other Republican leaders.
About the governor’s order:What you need to know about Indiana’s mask requirement
State and local officials say mask mandates and other precautions have been taken to ensure safety and stop the spread of COVID-19.
The Indiana State Department of Health reported an additional 561 cases and three deaths Monday, and the Marion County Public Health Department reported a total of 13,818 cases and 713 deaths. There have been 62,907 cases and 2,709 deaths statewide since the pandemic began.
At the protest, Lyons said it’s important to not get caught up in arguing about the effectiveness of masks. Lyons, who helped organize an anti-mask demonstration in downtown Indianapolis on July 19 that attracted about 200 people, said they should instead focus on holding government officials accountable for going beyond what he said they are allowed to do.
“A leader leads, but he doesn’t force you to do things that are unconstitutional,” Lyons said.
The demonstrators in Indianapolis did not specifically say why they think mask mandates are unconstitutional, although anti-mask protesters elsewhere have claimed such orders violate the Fourth Amendment’s banning of “unreasonable searches and seizures” by the government or the Fifth Amendment’s requirement of “due process of law.”
Elizabeth Oppel of Warsaw, Indiana, who also addressed the crowd, agreed with Lyons.
“I don’t like the mandatory masks, I don’t like it, but it’s just a very small symbol of what they have been doing to us for decades and generations,” Oppel said. “It’s not just a mask, it’s not just a piece of clothing. It’s a total violation of the Constitution and of our human rights and liberties.”
Oppel complained about what she said was government overreach and division as well as “brainwashing and traumatization for our children.”
She added that while the country needs leadership, it needs to be “good, just and right,” and that demonstrators should not rest until change takes place.
“We have gathered today, some of us from miles around, to say that we are tired of oppression,” Oppel said. “We must take responsibility and we must decide together to stand hand-in-hand against oppression.”
Before the event was cut short due to high wind and rain, a blue barrel was brought out for participants to throw away masks and papers with Holcomb’s executive order written on them.
Lyons told the crowd that they plan to burn the contents of the barrel and encouraged attendees to continue to speak out against the government.
“We have a long and arduous road, but it is attainable, it is possible, but man, we’ve got to fight like we’ve never fought before,” Lyons said. “We have got to fight like our lives depend on it, because you know what, they do.”
Contact IndyStar Pulliam Fellow Brooke Kemp at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @brookemkemp.