ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – The mayor of Alaska’s largest city has criticized a proposed mask mandate under consideration by the Anchorage Congregation and defended the use of yellow Stars of David worn by people who oppose the proposal.
Four people were arrested during Wednesday’s gathering for mask mandates, two for misconduct and two for trespassing. One is also charged with gun abuse for allegedly carrying a hidden weapon, Anchorage Police Sgt. Ken Bushue told the Anchorage Daily News.
The mask mandate hearing began on Tuesday and is expected to continue on Thursday.
The proposal stipulates that people must wear masks in public indoor spaces and outdoors at major events. With written approval, companies and building owners would have to refuse entry to people without masks, although there are exceptions for people including young children.
Mayor Dave Bronson could veto the proposal, but the Anchorage Convention could override a veto.
The proposal comes as Alaska is seeing a surge in coronavirus cases. State officials said there had been a 42% increase in newly confirmed cases over the past week, and the state’s largest hospital, Providence Alaska Medical Center, has declared emergency care standards that allow doctors to prioritize standards of care.
Anchorage introduced mask mandates under two different mayoral administrations. But Bronson was elected in May after pledging not to take mask mandates.
During Tuesday’s meeting, he said the proposed mask mandate was “inconsiderate and poorly designed”.
“I am against this ordinance because it is based on inconclusive science, because it is bad policy, and because it is an unconstitutional violation of the liberty guaranteed to every citizen of Anchorage by our federal and state constitutions,” Bronson said. “But above all I reject this regulation because it plays off neighbor against neighbor, shopkeeper against customer and friend against friend.”
At the meeting on Wednesday, he defended the use of the yellow stars by saying “do not comply” and worn by some people at meetings who opposed the proposal for the mask mandate.
Christine Hill, who twice ran unsuccessfully for the gathering, printed out the stars at home and distributed them to others to wear during the meeting to compare with the oppression and genocide of Jews in Nazi Germany.
âWe’re going the same way, what’s happening now, and we’re taking more and more freedom. And that’s what happens. It’s terrifying, âsaid Hill.
The yellow Stars of David and other Holocaust images are used by people across the country who speak out against mask and vaccination regulations and are condemned by the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish organizations.
Congregation member Forrest Dunbar, who is Jewish and lost to Bronson in the race for mayor, condemned the use of the Star of David when he read a letter he received from his Rabbi Abram Goodstein.
“It was heartbreaking to find people wearing yellow stars of David imitating my Jewish ancestors who perished in the Holocaust,” Dunbar read, quoting Goodstein.
The letter added: âFor me and most Jews, the yellow Star of David on a person’s chest triggers the same feeling as a swastika on a flag or the SS badge on a uniform. It is a symbol of hatred that reminds us Jews of the terror and horror we have suffered. I believe it is a constitutional right to protest for your values. But I ask you not to use symbols that diminish the 6 million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust. “
Bronson also spoke of the stars, saying, âThere was a formal message that came out about it in Jewish culture that said, ‘Never again.’ That’s an ethos. And that’s what this star really means: ‘We won’t forget, this will never happen again.’ And I think that we borrowed that from them is actually an honor for them, âsaid Bronson.
Many in the crowd testified against the mask mandate. Others called for the meeting and expressed their support for the proposal, citing rising case numbers and overburdened hospitals, including Dr. Tom Hennessy, who specializes in public health and preventive medicine from the University of Alaska Anchorage.
âThere is clear and compelling evidence that the use of face masks and masking requirements in public facilities reduces transmission and deaths from COVID-19. We know this from laboratory studies and real-world reviews of mask guidelines, âsaid Hennessy.
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