Salt Lake City – Protesters gathered on Saturday at the Utah State Capitol to express their opposition to recent changes to coronavirus guidelines from Governor Gary Herbert and the state’s health department. Specifically, the instructions surrounding the requirements for the mask.
“We’re just against authorizing the mask,” said Jade Burnham. “Perhaps not against the mask, but against their mandate.”
The new guidelines require masks in counties around the state that are considered to have high levels of coronavirus transmission. Burnham said he believed it was not the government’s responsibility to issue such requirements.
“What is the government’s job?” Asked. “It is for preserving life, freedom and property.”
One group at the protest, Proud Boys Utah – who were listed as one of five active hate groups in the state by the Southern Poverty Law Center – compared the requirements for masks to the government that takes a person’s guns away, among other things.
“These are things that happen in other countries,” Burnham said. He describes himself as a “pastor” from the Proud Boys Salt Lake City branch. “It occurs in socialist countries, but it does not happen here. This is a free country,” he added.
For some, mask requirements are seen as an effective way to prevent the spread of the virus, especially as Utah is seeing a high number of cases and hospitalizations. But others, like Jacob Esbel, have said mask requirements are simply not legal.
It’s completely illegal, Ispel said. “Governor Herbert, or even various counties, who issued lockdown orders and tried to make them enforceable with fines, this is illegal. Let people choose for themselves.”
However, some legal scholars point to several Supreme Court decisions – such as the 1905 case Jacobsen v. Massachusetts – that support the state’s authority to issue public health mandates.
At a recent press conference, Governor Herbert pointed to the fact that the guidelines are public health orders rather than state mandates.
“It’s a matter of law,” Herbert said. “It’s an order from the Utah Department of Health to help all of us be safe and keep our economy going. There’s nothing bad about this. It’s a good thing.”
Proud Boise members, like Burnham, say the government should focus on balancing life and freedom when it comes to public health guidelines and requirements.
“You cannot preserve life and get rid of freedom and property,” he said. “So if they needed a big life preservation facility, they couldn’t come and take your home even if you had a big house, right? They couldn’t do that. Well, I guess [with] Referring to what he said. “
There were several different groups gathered at the Capitol on Saturday, but they all shared a similar message. They felt that the new guidelines represented the transgression of government in people’s lives.