Hundreds of Local Parents and Children Attend “Unmask Our Children Rally”
by James Coulter
Several children play outside and in the gym during P.E. They are required to wear masks as they run laps in the Florida heat. One boy is scolded for pulling his mask down from over his nose so he can breathe. As punishment, he is forced to run several more laps while wearing his mask.
These were some of the sights Hannah Petersen, a Lakeland mother, witnessed during a visit to her son’s school. She was astonished at how other students like her son were forced to wear masks even when outside. She took to Facebook to rally other like-minded parents and grow a movement to do away with mask mandates at local schools.
What started as a small, private Facebook group quickly grew to more than 9,600 members. While her Change.org page was taken by Change.org administrators, her movement gained enough momentum to culminate into a political rally on Tuesday evening.
Several hundred concerned parents and their children gathered outside the Polk County Public School Board, on the property at 4270 Wallace Road in Lakeland, to protest the city’s mask mandate. The group assembled between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. while school board members met during their regularly scheduled meeting.
Protesters, both young and old, carried homemade signs expressing their disapproval of the mask mandate. “This is the sign of tyranny,” one cardboard sign read with a mask taped below it.
Petersen was unable to attend the rally that evening due to illness. Many other administrators and members of her Facebook group took to the stage to speak out against their children being forced to wear masks in school.
“We have been going through this for 148 days,” said one mother, Jenna Sutton. “You all have been wearing this mask for 148 days to school. And you know what? It’s time. It is time. It has been 1,036 hours if you don’t ride a bus. That’s how many hours our children have been forced to cover their faces. That is enough. It’s enough.”
Sutton doubts the effectiveness of mask mandates to combat the COVID-19 crisis. Her children and others in the school system are overcoming adversity simply by wearing them, she alleged. If anything, making them wear masks could prove worse.
“We all know the five-second rule,” she said. “They are dropping them at lunch. They are stepping on them. And they are throwing them on their face so they don’t get in trouble. Enough is enough.”
Mike Musik, a city commission candidate, attended the rally to show his support. He compared face masks to Petri dishes. He did not believe that people, especially young children, should be forced to wear them for more than eight hours.
“You cannot let it stop right here,” he said. “You have to continue. I am willing to take a stand.”
For many attendees, the rally was more than simply being required to wear a piece of cloth over their face. They considered this issue to be the crux of a nationwide culture war, one in which the very fate of the country was at stake.
Steve Maxwell used his speech to introduce his new organization, the County Citizens Defending Freedom (CCDF). His organization would serve as an alliance with larger political organizations like the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and Turning Points USA, to address local infringements on civil liberties.
Maxwell started the organization with his business partner. They both felt that their elected politicians did not have the backbone “to stand up for this country,” which is why they started CCDF.
He insisted that the mask mandate marked a divide between two Americas: one made of “real Americans” who believed in “real American values” such as those enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, and “Americans In-Name Only,” or AINOs, who remain complicit with “globalists” and “Big Tech” to “radically change” America.
“The fix is not coming from Washington DC: the fix starts right here,” he said. “Our nation finds itself in a battle that will determine the continuation or death of our liberties and freedoms that we hold dear…I believe this is the last hope. We the people are going to have to rise up. It will be uncomfortable. But remember one thing. We are not here to comfort the afflicted. We are here to afflict the comfortable. We are here to add accountability to our leaders.”