CLOSE'It's propaganda': Anti-mask crowd rallies at Ohio capital,
derides doctors, claims government overreach 2

A new report suggests that wearing a cloth mask doesn’t just protect others from COVID-19, it can protect you as well. USA TODAY

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Hundreds of maskless people gathered Saturday at the Ohio Statehouse to protest what they see as overreach by government officials and public health advocates desperate to stop the spread of the surging coronavirus.

They said doctors urging them to cover up are wrong.

They said infection and mortality data are being manipulated.

They said — through bullhorns and with signs and on T-shirts — that Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is a helicopter parent who’s got it all wrong.

“It’s not connecting to the science. It’s propaganda,” said Cherrelyn Pierson of Marysville, Ohio, who said she works in a health-related field and understands virus transmission.

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“I trust myself,” Pierson said. “I am the science.”

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Various groups gathered at the statehouse under a blazing sun to rally for many causes Saturday, including militia members, supporters of President Donald Trump, prayer proponents and those who champion Black Lives Matter and civil rights organizations.

Interactions between people with opposing views were mostly peaceful throughout the day, if strained. The crowd had mostly dissipated by mid-afternoon.

“I understand people’s rights. But this seems so silly,” said Nicholas Two Feathers Gonzalez, who sat quietly on a bench wearing both a mask and a shirt expressing his displeasure with the 45th president.

“My brother just died of the virus last week. He was in a nursing home,” Gonzalez said. “How can these people be against masks? The numbers don’t lie.”

Case numbers surging 

According to Ohio Department of Health data, the state set a daily record for COVID-19 infections on Friday, with 1,679 new confirmed and probable cases reported.

The daily tally declined some on Saturday, but still was the second-highest reported during the pandemic, with 1,542 new cases. There were 20 more deaths, bringing the state’s total to 3,132.

DeWine has not imposed a statewide mask order, but the spike in cases has led to mandatory mask orders in several counties.

“What about breathing in your own carbon all day?” said Lia Ivko of Newark, Ohio, who joined protesters at the statehouse. She said doctors, including the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, won’t admit that masks cause problems and aren’t effective.

“Why is it only the left that wears masks?” Ivko said, adding that she does have compassion for vulnerable populations who are most at risk of dying from the virus. “There’s a lot of things that don’t make sense to me.”

Many of the protesters also said the earlier business shutdown has wrecked the economy, and that kids need to go back to school.

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Ramon Obey II, 22, described himself as a civil rights activist and said he went to the statehouse because he believes it’s important to hear other views.

But he kept a distance from others and wore a mask. “It’s surprising and a little bit scary,” he said.

Follow reporter Rita Price on Twitter: @RitaPrice

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