Jared Treece | @bisalo
Around 150 demonstrators gathered at the Illinois state capitol to voice their opposition to state guidelines requiring students to wear masks when they return to school.
The demonstration was called the “Million Unmasked March” and the mantra of the protesters was “my child my choice.”
Michael Rebresh, one of the organizers of the march, said children should never be “forced into wearing a mask to return to school.”
“It’s time to send our kids back to school in the only condition that is acceptable and that is one that is normal, in every way, and every day and without a da** mask, ” Rebresh said. “It’s time to take our state back. What does the science say? It’s my choice, it’s my child.”
Rep. Darren Bailey also spoke at the event. Bailey represents Southern Illinois’ 109th district and has become known for challenging Gov. JB Pritzker’s stay at home order.
Bailey said the day was about “freedom over fear.”
“We are being fed a lot of untruthfulness for what I believe is simply compliance for us to take away our rights,” Bailey said. “So god bless you over there [pointing at counter-protesters] if you want to wear your mask you are more than welcome to that’s awesome. I shouldn’t be condemning you for doing that, but do not condemn me for not wanting to wear a mask.”
Throughout the course of the demonstration, a few counter-protesters gathered across the street, wearing masks, holding signs and heckling the protesters.
One of the signs, held by Glenwood High School junior Trevor Good, read “My teachers are elderly stop trying to kill them.”
Another sign read: “Which 3 kids from your school are you ‘ok’ with dying?? Have you told the parents?”
Protesters would occasionally cross the street to yell back at the counter-protesters and one woman was arrested after she yelled at and spit on counter-protester Evan McKean.
McKean said he was there for his children.
“I’m here for responsibility, I have two young children who are going back to school and I think it’s unacceptable for these people not to wear masks.”
After about an hour and a half of speeches, the protesters marched to the Illinois State Board of Education before dispersing.
The CDC’s guidelines for masks can be viewed here. The CDC says it is important for everyone who is able to, to wear a mask in public to slow the spread of COVID-19.
To view a video with footage from the march by staff photographer Jared Treece, click here.
Editor in Chief Kallie Cox can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @KallieECox.
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