Anti-mask violence is cropping up everywhere — and GOP lawmakers are egging it on

2077

Masks are 'an oppressive violation of my rights,' Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeted Tuesday.

After serving eight years as a government official, Mayor Joyce Warshaw of Dodge City, Kansas, resigned Tuesday after threats of violence by people opposed to her city's mask mandate made her fear for her safety.

According to a Washington Post report, Warshaw began receiving a flood of threats via email and voicemail after she voted on the mask regulations.

"The messages grew frequent and more aggressive: Burn in hell. Get murdered," the Post noted. "One person simply wrote, 'We're coming for you.'"

"They were loud, and they were aggressive, and they frightened me and my family," Warshaw said. "There's a strong part of me that wants to say they are only words. But people are angry right now, and I don't know that for sure."

Threats of violence made by anti-maskers have emerged as a troubling trend since the pandemic's beginning.

And in many cases, Republican lawmakers are encouraging them.

Most notably, Donald Trump's heckling and name-calling of Michigan's Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer over COVID safety measures created what she said was an atmosphere that encouraged a failed kidnapping plot against her by violent people on the far right who oppose lockdowns and mask mandates.

More recently, incoming congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene griped Wednesday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's new mask mandate for the House chamber is a "violation" of her constitutional rights.

"Is this the Marjorie Mask Mandate, @SpeakerPelosi?" Greene asked on Twitter. "An oppressive violation of my rights."

She ended the tweet with the hashtag "#MyBodyMyChoice."

And Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) took to Twitter on Tuesday to slam those calling for people to wear masks even after they receive the coronavirus vaccine: "This is a bizarre, lunatic, totalitarian cult," he ranted. "It's not about vaccines or protecting people's lives — it is instead profoundly anti-science, and is only focused on absolute govt control of every aspect of our lives."

Such rhetoric adds to the backlash against masking that can become dangerous when people act on anger and resentment against the mandates.

On Wednesday in Saugerties, New York, a man violently assaulted a customer in a dollar store when she approached him about his failure to wear a mask.

Last weekend, the small town of Mossyrock, Washington, was the site of a large anti-mask protest organized by the far-right group Patriot Prayer, which has a history of violent incidents.

One week earlier, public health officials in Boise, Idaho, were forced to end a meeting early when anti-maskers protested outside their building and the private homes of some of the officials.

In late November, an Ohio man threatened a Walmart employee with brass knuckles when he was asked to wear a mask, and an enraged IHOP patron in Queens, New York, slashed an employee after being asked by another employee to wear a mask.

Managers at some stores, such as popular Texas chain grocery H-E-B, have said they've had to stop enforcing mask policies because of violence and frequent threats to employees' safety.

In Omaha, Nebraska, Police Lt. John Wells told a local station that initiating an encounter with an anti-masker should be avoided at all costs.

"You don't want to try to instigate a confrontation because you don't know how that person is going to try and react," Wells said.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.