Dozens of people rallied on Thursday in Bozeman to take a stand against Governor Steve Bullock’s recent mask mandate. The rally started at 6 p.m. in front of the Gallatin County Courthouse.
Bullock announced on Wednesday a state-wide directive requiring face coverings in Montana, effective immediately, in all counties that have four or more active cases of COVID-19, in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
“We should just have the right to choose. I don’t care if somebody wants to wear a mask. That’s their choice. But if I don’t want to wear one, that should be mine,” said Avery George.
“I’m out here because I don’t like being told I have to wear a mask. I am wearing one because we are on state property. He did tell us he wants us wearing a mask, so I will be legal. I will obey him. But I disagree with it. I do not like being told I have to wear a mask against my will,” explained Ava Fabian.
“We should not have the government coming in and telling you what interventions are good for you and parenting you. If you want to educate people and convince people that’s fine,” said Nichole Skeen.
“Our opinions weren’t taken into account. We very much voiced our opinions against it and it was just openly dismissed. There wasn’t even really a talk about it, and I feel like that was very unjust. It’s to serve the people not to dictate them,” said Cayman Fabian.
“We’re here because we don’t want to be told what to do when it comes to masks. I think everybody has the right to wear it or not but we’re here just peacefully and we’re expressing that. If anybody has any opinions like no matter what aisle on the political spectrum, I think you should do it peacefully,” said Gunnar Richey.
And while there were dozens of people protesting against the mask mandate at the rally, there was one counter-protester rallying in favor of the mask mandate.
“I am here to protest the protest because I think if there’s one thing you can do to help humanity that’s easy wearing a mask would be it. It’s very important because masks don’t kill but the virus does and if you can save a life, save a life,” explained Linda Wisman.
Wisman said she didn’t care that she was by herself. She believed her voice needed to be heard.
The protest remained peaceful throughout the entire event.
The state-wide directive requires that masks be used in most indoor settings and where social distancing cannot be maintained. Bullock said businesses have the right to deny entry to anyone not wearing a mask. But he stopped short of calling for fines or other punishment for failing to comply. He said law enforcement and public health agencies should take the role of education for most violators and reserve harsher action for repeat offenders.
The directive requires businesses, government offices, and other indoor spaces open to the public to ensure that employees, contractors, volunteers, customers, and visitor wear a face mask that covers their mouth and nose while inside such spaces. The directive also requires face coverings at organized outdoor activities of 50 or more people, where social distancing is not possible or is not observed.
“Many Montanans answered the call to mask up – a call that came from our hospitals, nurses, and doctors, our vibrant small business community, our frontline workers, and our high-risk neighbors,” Bullock said. “I thank all of those who take seriously their personal responsibility and their role in stopping COVID-19. But we need even more Montanans, and the visitors who come here, to mask up.”