Coronavirus fatigue was on full display Saturday morning, just 10 hours after the mask mandate returned to Williamson County.
Despite the continual drizzle and occasional short shower, an estimated more than 250 people from all over the county braved the elements to make their voices heard in protest to the mandate, which likely will continue until Dec. 31.
The event drew every age, from the very young to very senior citizens, and included students, educators, medical professionals and business owners. They heard from lawyers schooled in the Constitution, educators suspended for not wearing a mask, a student who had to fight due to medical reasons for an exemption to wearing a mask in school, another who was sent home from school for not wearing a mask and business owners affected by the mandates. They spoke out about their experiences in dealing with the shutdown, the mask mandate and personal liberty.
The rally was organized by Gary Humble with Tennessee Stands, “a nonprofit social advocacy organization that serves to protect the individual liberties of all Tennesseans as stated in the Tennessee State Constitution and given to us by God,” as a means to hold elected officials’ feet to the fire regarding their constitutional duties and let them know many of their constituents are done with mandates.
“Be wary,” said Humble. “Whatever government takes away, it never gives back, and no government has the authority to issue a mandate to wear masks.”
He equated the mask mandate to HIV and a mandate for people to wear blue nitro gloves because they may or may not have the virus.
Those attending the rally said the line has been drawn. It’s not about masks, it’s about liberty and constitutional rights.
“It’s about an overreaching government that strives to operate with authority it doesn’t have,” Humble said. “We are done with unconstitutional, unlawful mandates. If you want to wear a mask, if you want to stay home, if you want to place limitations on your own business, that’s your prerogative, but the idea that the government can forcibly issue these mandates with no legislative action but by executive rule of a governor, a mayor or a health board that has no law-making authority … we are giving away liberty we will not get back.”
According to Humble and other speakers, the ultimate issue is with the legislature for relinquishing its law-making duties to the governor who delegated authority he does not have to county mayors.
“[The governor’s] endless strings of executive orders demonstrate a fundamental ignorance of the founding principles of the American order — that our rights come from God,” said Kevin Kookogey, a Tennessee Stands board member and attorney specializing in entertainment business, which has been hardest hit by continued closures.
He went on to quote Thomas Jefferson’s 1801 inaugural address.
“With all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and prosperous people? Still one more thing: a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another but shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned,” Kookogey said. “We are a government of the people, for the people and by the people.”
Robbie Starbuck, a conservative activist, spoke about the tyranny that slowly hit the people of Cuba in the 1950s. No one spoke up, he said, they just went along and one day realized they lost all their freedoms.
“This is still America, and in America, we don’t forcibly put masks on our children, on our wives, on our husbands, our brothers and our sisters. ... Forcibly masking people is an intrusion on God given rights and the rights built into the Constitution. It won’t stop. As of this week, [Dr.] Anthony Fauci is now demanding a mask mandate for all of America. Be wary — this is how it starts.”
Tennessee Stands recently filed a lawsuit against Gov. Bill Lee over the alleged unconstitutional actions of delegating authority to county mayors. According to Article 7, section 1 of the Tennessee Constitution, the duties of the county executive are prescribed by the General Assembly, “not the governor,” Humble said.
The mandates, Humble added, “are unconstitutional.”
In addition, Humble said Tennessee Stands isn’t convinced the paper and cloth masks most people wear make a difference, citing recent results of a controlled research study in July by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing virtually no difference in the percentage of people who tested negative who wore a mask almost always or always and those who almost never or never wore a mask.
Rulings on lawsuits regarding mandates across the country are being made. A U.S. District Court judge ruled Pennsylvania’s mandates were unconstitutional for the First and 14th Amendments. The judge opined, “Good intentions toward a laudable end are not alone enough to uphold government action against a constitutional challenge. Indeed, great threats to our system of constitutional liberties may arise when the ends are laudable and intent is good especially in a time of emergency. In an emergency, even a vigilant public may let down its guard over its constitutional liberties only to find that liberties once relinquished are hard to recoup and restrictions expedient in times of an emergency may persist long after the danger has passed.”
Before the rally ended, Humble announced a forthcoming lawsuit against Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson and a request for his removal because “he had no authority to mandate.”
“We’ve had enough,” Humble said. “No more. Not in America. Not in Tennessee.”
Carole Robinson may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org