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Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

    Maskless protest and counter protest comes to Sonoma Square


    If there was one item that symbolizes the pandemic, one item that will forever remind everyone of the year that changed everything; it will be the face mask. When wearing a face mask in public first became required by law, many thought the regulations would not last more than six months. Now, over a year later, wearing a mask has become second nature to most and extraordinarily common to see in public places. 

    Controversy about the wearing of masks and their effectiveness has been an ongoing battle across the United States since the start of the pandemic. Guidelines from the CDC on mask wearing have been changed multiple times since the outbreak leaving the general public confused on what information they should trust. This led to the formation of two opposing sides: anti-maskers and pro-maskers. 

    On April 10, there was an anti-mask protest in Santa Rosa organized by a group called Save Our Sonoma. According to the Sonoma-Index Tribune, approximately 40 people without masks met behind the historic Sonoma Barracks and marched South with signs towards Sonoma Plaza where the Sonoma City Hall is and ended at the Bear Flag Revolt Statue. 

    The march got “a lot of nasty reactions from very toxic people in our local community,” a protestor told the California Globe. Reports of these comments went viral online as anti- anti-mask protesters discussed bringing rotten foods to throw at their opposers as well as having ill people attend the march to infect the anti-maskers with COVID-19. 

    The bulletin board that was put up to advertise the event was the catalyst of controversy for the event. The group, Save Our Sonoma, was accused of being racist after many drew correlations between their billboard and the confederate flag. The billboard, which featured the American flag criss-crossed with chains, read “End the Lockdown. Save our Freedom”. 

    “After two days, the billboard company got so many complaints about our flag resembling a confederate flag, that the company had to take it down,” the local protestor stated to the Globe. “Of course, we were accused of being racist!!  This looks nothing like a confederate flag, in my opinion.” 

    Many were extra upset about signs being shown off at the march itself. Many signs were held by the peaceful protestors, one of which spurred more controversy than others.

     One woman, wrote Carol Allison to the Sonoma Valley Sun in a letter to the editor, was holding a sign at the march that read in big black letters: “I Can’t Breathe”, a Black Lives Matter phrase that became popular following the death of Eric Garner in 2014 and later George Floyd in 2020. The slogan has become familiar to anyone following the reports of police brutality across America. Allison claimed in her letter that she witnessed this sign being stepped on by the anti-mask protestors and jokes being made about “stepping on George Floyd”. She continued to describe the activists’ laughter at this and one even saying, “I wanted to write ‘George Floyd’ on it [the sign], but I thought that might be too much.”

    Another anti-mask protester took the opportunity to comment on the letter his beliefs on why wearing face-masks should not be required by law, “ATTENTION some people genuinely shouldn’t be wearing masks and THEY CANNOT BREATHE WELL ENOUGH IN THEM thus [the] event was to advocate for those with disabilities and trauma related psychological issues with masks that they have been required to wear in order to be a part of the community which is discrimination and your prejudice remarks are worse than what you claim they said.” 

    Carol Allison refuted, “You claim their cause was just to advocate for those with disabilities and trauma who cannot wear a mask – not true. Their signs say ‘Masks Don’t Work’, ‘Take Off Your Face Diaper’, ‘Masks = Currency of Control.’ There was far more going on than what you say.” 

    Another comment challenged Allison’s statements, “Carol, your reporting was biased before you even began your interview. You twisted and inserted information that wasn’t shared with you…Our tyrannical governor is extending a ‘State of Emergency’ when there is no longer an ‘emergency.’ Not only can some not wear masks for health reasons, most of us don’t want our faces covered for political reasons of control — this is what is meant by wanting our personal freedoms.”

    The Save Our Sonoma group mission statement says, “Our group seeks to inspire and empower Sonoma County residents through disseminating evidence-based information regarding the effects of COVID-19 lockdowns and future crises that we feel will continue to unfold.  It is our belief that the long-term effects of the lockdown harms, over time will be far more devastating”. 

    Their website goes on to continue to explain the group’s point of view on the pandemic, “From the ocean to the vineyards, the lockdowns and closures have damaged children, business owners, restaurant owners, and isolated individuals. Yes, Covid-19 exists, but we are not being told the full truth. We need transparency. We need responsive leadership that does not hide behind a computer. And, we need your help to reopen and return Sonoma County to its former glory.”

    The Save Our Sonoma website also offers those browsing links to many articles both for and against the wearing of face masks. Among the links was an article written for the American Institute of Economic research, discussing evidence gathered by Dr. Roger W. Koops supporting the claim that “there is no clear scientific evidence that masks (surgical or cloth) work to mitigate risk to the wearer or to those coming into contact with the wearer, as they are currently worn in everyday life and specifically as we refer to Covid-19.” 

    In support of the wearing of masks, the website included a link to a New York Times article. The article goes into explaining how masks work and that “masks of all kinds vary in filtration efficiency based on their shape and fit”. According to this article, certain masks with valves do little to protect those around you but if those around you are wearing masks, then the combined filtration efficiency increases. 

    Evidence both in support and against wearing masks in public are overwhelming and both sides are becoming increasingly passionate about their beliefs. David Eichar, one of many people offended by the march, commented on the Sonoma Index tribune article, “To me, wearing a mask to protect other Americans is about as patriotic as you can get. Not caring if other people get sick and die is a selfish act. If everyone wore masks, the pandemic would be over sooner, meaning the lock down would end sooner.”

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