Armed anti-mask protesters gathered outside the Ohio statehouse on Saturday for a ‘civil disobedience rally’ guarded by militia and military veterans.
Ohio does not yet have a statewide mandate on wearing masks but several groups converged Saturday afternoon to push back on the requirements already introduced in several counties.
Hundreds of maskless people crowded together outside the courthouse in Columbus to voice their anger, claiming a requirement for face coverings is an overreach by local officials.
Nearby, Black Lives Matter and civil rights activists held their own protest.
Armed anti-mask protesters gathered in their hundreds outside the Ohio state courthouse in Columbus on Saturday where ‘security’ was provided by ‘military and military veterans’. They mounted a watch around the protest
Militia members arrive during the Stand For Freedom Ohio anti-mass ‘civil disobedience rally’ on Saturday as hundreds gathered to stand against a mask mandate in several Ohio counties. There is, as yet, no statewide mask mandate
A counter-protest began as demonstrators came out to support Black Lives Matter. One woman was pictured holding a BLM sign as she had a stand off with the anti-maskers before police came to form a line between the two groups
Many signs at the anti-mask protest questioned to risk of coronavirus in Ohio
There was reports of only one person being detained from the protests, following a physical altercation not between anti-mask protesters and Black Lives Matter protesters but between two members of different far-right groups. A member of the Boogaloo Movement wearing a Hawaiian shirt was pictured attempting to strike members of the Proud Boys
No violence was reported between the different groups of protesters but the atmosphere was described as tense.
Pictures from the protest showed that police were forced to detain one person following a physical altercation between far-right protesters from two different groups.
A member of the Boogaloo Movement wearing a Hawaiian shirt was pictured attempting to strike members of the Proud Boys before police officers took him away.
The first protest to kick off was the Stand for Freedom Ohio rally which saw hundreds of attendees collect to stand against mask mandates.
According to ABC 6, the anti-mask protest was advertised as an open-carry event where ‘security’ would be provided by ‘militia, military veterans, bikers and patriot groups’.
The group also spoke out against coronavirus shutdowns and in favor of the police.
Armed men and women in camoflague surrounded the protest, many others wearing American flag clothing.
Several of the protesters were seen waving Trump 2020 signs as they brandished firearms.
‘I will not wear someone else’s fear’ signs read, as others called for schools to be reopened.
‘Let out people go. We don’t need masks. We don’t need out businesses shut down,’ one protester told ABC. ‘We are free.’
Some claimed that the doctors who are encouraging masks to be worn are wrong and alleged that coronavirus cases numbers and deaths are being manipulated, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
A militia member holds a position on the State Capitol grounds in Columbus, Ohio, during an anti-mask rally on Saturday
Many of the armed anti-mask protesters wore clothing supporting President Trump
A protester hugs a self-ascribed Black Panther member during the Stand For Freedom Ohio anti-mass civil disobedience rally
‘It’s not connecting to the science. It’s propaganda,’ said Cherrelyn Pierson, who told the Dispatch she works in a health-related field.
‘I trust myself. I am the science,’ she added, claiming that the risks of respiratory and airborne transmission of coronavirus are being overstated.
Others claims that masks could be harmful, despite doctors’ advice.
‘What about breathing in your own carbon all day?’ Lia Ivko told the Dispatch.
‘Why is it only the left that wears masks? There’s a lot of things that don’t make sense to me.’
Others watching the protest were dismayed to see the large group refusing to cover their faces.
‘My brother just died of the virus last week. He was in a nursing home,’ said Nicholas Two Feathers Gonzalez. ‘How can these people be against masks? The numbers don’t lie.’
‘I understand people’s rights. But this seems so silly,’ he added.
Heated exchanged erupted between the groups of protesters as the protests grew
Only a few of the anti-mask protesters were seen covering their faces
Shouting matches erupted between protesters but no violence was reported between the two groups
Columbus police were forced to form a line between the two groups of protesters
The counter-protest mounted later in the afternoon following speeches from the anti-mask rally, as Columbus police were forced to form a line between the two groups.
The Black Lives Matter protesters shouted ‘No justice, no peace’ as they shouted down the other demonstration.
‘I came out today specifically to add my body to a crowd for Black Lives Matter because I knew they were coming but I’ve been down here numerous times,’ a counter-protester said to ABC.
Heated exchanges erupted with yelling and shouting but the groups remained peaceful.
Police were later forced to close down surrounding streets as the protests grew and spilled over.
All the protesters had peacefully left the area by Saturday evening.
Black Lives Matter protesters arrive at Ohio Statehouse during the anti mask ‘Stand for Freedom’ rally in Columbus Saturday
The anti-mask was described as open carry and many protesters brandished firearms
Men and woman in the anti-mask crowd were seen holding firearms
The events was held after the Ohio Department of Heath on Friday confirmed 1,679 new coronavirus cases, a state record.
There were also 20 new deaths bringing the state’s death toll to 3,132.
While deaths in the state are currently on the decline, hospitalizations are on the rise.
There is a growing fear of the recent surge in coronavirus cases among young people.
ABC 6 reports that the average age for coronavirus cases in the state is lowering steadily.
A milita member is seen with a bull whip during the Columbus protests
Despite the criticism from the anti-mask protesters on Saturday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has not yet implemented a statewide mask order but counties such as Franklin and others in central Ohio have introduced restrictions as a result of their rising cases.
The protest in Columbus came days after a similar anti-mask demonstration in Oklahoma clashed with a black pastor calling for reparations over the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre that left an estimated 300 African Americans dead.
Footage shared to social media earlier this week shows Rev. Robert Turner speaking into a megaphone outside Tulsa City Hall with a small group of supporters.
The activists then become surrounded by large crowd of demonstrators protesting against mandatory mask-wearing.
The group of anti-maskers – who waved placards that read ‘Fire Fauci’ and ‘Masks Harm Health’ – attempted to down out Turner by changing ‘USA! USA!’
However, Turner was not deterred, telling the crowd about the city’s historic race massacre.
‘An angry racist mob of white descended upon Greenwood [in 1921] and killed black people. Not one of those racist, white angry fools had a trial for the cause,’ he stated into the megaphone.
A white anti-mask demonstrator then stated: ‘Sweetie, let us have our voice and you can have yours!’
She subsequently yelled at Turner: ‘You’re racist! You’re racist!’
Turner continued, saying into the microphone: ‘It is a travesty that you care more about face masks then you do about justice.’
He went on to call for reparations for the families of those killed in the massacre, saying that Tulsa has enough money to pay up.