Idaho State police on Sunday were investigating a protest at the state Capitol in Boise during which scores of Idahoans burned masks to protest coronavirus public health recommendations they view as restrictions on freedom.
Health experts say masks are critical tools against a disease that has killed more than 500,000 Americans, including almost 2,000 in Idaho. Gov. Brad Little, a Republican, has never ordered a statewide mask mandate, but seven counties and 11 cities have them in place.
State police say the protest Saturday drew about 100 people to the Capitol steps. Videos posted on social media showed adults encouraging children to toss masks into a fire.
"During the event, an open flame was ignited in a barrel," police said in a statement. "Those involved with the event were informed both before and during the event that open flames are not allowed on State Capitol grounds. The incident is under review."
Republican lawmakers in Idaho have introduced legislation to prohibit mask mandates across the state. Visitors to the Capitol are asked to wear masks, but they're not required and few Republican lawmakers wear them. Little, however, wore a mask to sign unrelated legislation Friday.
Last week, President Joe Biden dismissed the decision by some Republican governors to end mask mandates as "Neanderthal thinking." White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended the comment as a "reflection of his frustration" about Americans refusing to follow public health guidance.
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