The regular meeting of Franklin County’s commissioners broke up on Tuesday in a rally against Washington State’s masked mandate, during which a commissioner resigned in protest.
The mandate reintroduced on Monday to curb the rising number of COVID-19 cases and deaths requires people to wear masks in public buildings.
Franklin County Commissioner Clint Didier came to the meeting with dozens of onlookers without a mask and refused to put one on.
In a heated exchange, Franklin County Prosecutors Shawn Sant, Didier and Commissioners Brad Peck and Rocky Mullen stated that the action could lead to a state lawsuit and that the meeting would be “illegal”. This means that any action they took during the session can be invalidated.
Didier continued to refuse to comply, causing Peck to leave the district court session to the applause and scorn from some people in the room.
In the end, Mullen said they would have to postpone consideration of agenda items, including a land use permit hearing scheduled for that day.
Although he said he disagreed with Governor Jay Inslee’s mandate, he also wanted to make sure they didn’t open the county for legal action.
But his decision came after almost two hours of discussion and emotional public comments about the mandate.
Didier had promised to come to the meeting without a mask on Monday and said he was willing to take the risk of being charged with a gross misdemeanor and possibly dismissed.
“Our Founding Fathers recognized that our inalienable rights were given to us by our Creator, God. What God has given us, no man, no government, no governor and no president can take away, ”Didier said in a video on his Facebook page. “That’s why I ask all men who help me.”
The announcement brought a crowd into the Commission meeting room with standing room only. The meeting was also broadcast online.
“I know that the legislature has supposedly given him this authority because the citizens do not accept it,” Didier said. “We want civil disobedience to set an example in this room. We cannot let a governor take our God-given freedoms away from us! “
The meeting barely began when Peck challenged Didier and said he would not attend a meeting that violated the governor’s emergency decree.
Peck indicated that the protest could invalidate any decision made by the commissioners.
This was assisted by Sant, who spoke through several interruptions from the wild crowd. He said he had sworn to protect the laws of the state and, like it or not, the governor’s order carried the weight of the law.
Legal challenges to previous mandates were unsuccessful, and Sant did not believe he could successfully defend the county based on evidence of rising COVID-19 rates supporting a health emergency.
“The problem is that the legislature approved this. This is not the governor who just imposes or takes power. This was decided by the legislature, ”said Sant. “This is the law, and frankly, the people hired me to provide guidance on how to keep the county out of legal harm.”
This was followed by Sheriff Jim Raymond, who said he wasn’t going to arrest anyone for not wearing a mask, but he wanted people in the room to be polite.
Before the gathering broke up into an anti-mandate rally and Didier asked the public to speak, Peck went out.
Before leaving, he pointed out that the legislature had refused to address the governor’s emergency powers during the last session.
“Whether you like the governor, personally I’m not a fan, it’s very clear that state lawmakers, including MP (Brad) Klippert standing here, voted 99 percent yes, both parties, to give him that power give, “said Peck. called. “He exercises the power that the legislature of our representative republic has given him.”
Most of the people who spoke for the next two hours said it was time to stand up in protest. Many thanked Didier for leading the prosecution.
One man burst into tears when he stated that because of the governor’s behavior, his friends were leaving Washington and moving to Florida.
Another said they live in a culture of fear where people are afraid to get up and do the right thing. He urged people to stand up and take back the country.
“I believe in free choice. I believe in freedom. I will fight to ensure that everyone, every member of my family, every one of you or every one of my co-workers has the right to wear a mask and get a vaccine, just as I would fight that they have the freedom not to use them wear a mask and not get a vaccine, ”said district assessor John Rosenau.
Rosenau, who said he did not speak as a reviewer, said he had people in his office tell him that if they were forced to wear a mask they would quit.
Commissioner Rocky Mullen proved to be a key factor in deciding whether to continue the meeting.
“I have several stores, one of which I haven’t earned in over a year because it closed completely,” he said. “I was also under the control of (Labor and Industries) L&I and I know the implications. And when that happens, you’re kind of on your own. ”
Along with Klippert, Sant and others, he urged people to bring their concerns to Olympia and have the legislature hold a special session.