At first they fought over masks. Then about the soul of the city.

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But over the months none of the people he’d bought lunch for or helped fund their organizations stood up for him. A former military man he counted as a friend even joined the Enid Freedom Fighters. He felt as if he lived in a city that no longer recognized him.

The attention he received was threatening at times. His daughter, then 7 years old, was teased about his attitude at school. Military security at the base where Mr Waddell now works as a civilian IT operations operations officer took him aside to inform him of threats against him, but noted that they did not expect any action to be taken. He started checking a security camera in his house through an app on his phone.

“There is only this vitriol in this place that we have chosen,” said 41-year-old Waddell. “We are excluded from the community we have chosen. It’s kind of a surreal feeling. “

The city commissioner who introduced the mask mandate, Ben Ezzell, lawyer and artist, also received disguised warnings – mostly by email and Facebook. Someone threw rubbish on their lawn. At a city council meeting a man shouted that he knew where Mr. Ezzell lived. Another meeting became so tense that police insisted on escorting him to his car.

But Mr Ezzell, who is 35 years old, hadn’t finished arguing for the mandate. As summer turned into autumn and the Delta variant began to grow, it seemed like the logical solution. So he kept bringing it up in meetings, which led Ms. Crabtree and the Freedom Fighters to begin the process, to call him back to stop it. She also accused him of being disrespectful, such as using profanity and scribbling in people’s speeches. (He said he drew lemmings walking off cliffs to keep calm, especially when comment sessions from emotional residents lasted for hours.)

A prominent supporter of the recall was Mrs. Crabtree’s pastor, Wade Burleson, whose church, Emmanuel Enid, is the largest in town. Enid has a sizable upper middle class with large houses and housing developments near a country club and golf course, and many of these families are part of the Church’s 3,000 congregation.


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