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‘We are Free – UnmaskME’ protest in Augusta Oct. 24

Demonstrators applaud a speech by 1st District Congressional Candidate Dr. Jay Allen as he tells them “This is not an anti-mask rally, it is an anti-mask mandate rally,” during a protest against the Maine requirement to wear masks during the COVID-19 pandemic. The demonstration took place near the Blaine House in Augusta on Oct. 24. (Geraghty photo)

By Gail Geraghty

AUGUSTA – Around 40 people gathered on Saturday, Oct. 24, next to the Blaine House in Augusta to protest Gov. Janet Mills’ statewide mask-mandate, led by members of the Facebook group Mainers Against Mask Mandates (MAMM).

Several Republican politicians made speeches, including 1st District Congressional Candidate Dr. Jay Allen, who was the subject of a rap song sung in his honor by emcee Chris “Chrittah” Blais of Northwoods Outlaws.

“This is not an anti-mask rally, it is an anti-mask mandate rally,” Allen said. “We don’t mind people wearing masks if they feel that makes them more protected. But we are against people on high telling us what we need to do.”

Allen said Maine does not have the COVID-19 numbers to justify a statewide mask mandate, pointing out that 12 of the state’s 16 counties have a low transmission risk and that no counties, not even York or Cumberland, are considered high risk by the Maine Centers For Disease Control.

His remarks came just days before the Maine CDC began reporting a spike in new cases, which has led Mills to consider holding off on reopening bars Nov. 4 as planned.

Independent Senate candidate Max Linn, who made headlines when he cut up a mask during a debate, made a surprise visit to speak at the protest. “There’s never been a better time to be an American patriot,” he told the crowd. Linn said Washington politics won’t change until the people choose “citizen legislators” like him to replace those now in power.

It was the appeals of ordinary citizens who spoke that appeared to carry the most weight with the crowd. Rebecca Rochelle said she simply cannot wear a mask. The one time she did, she passed out, yet little concern was shown. “I’ve been called killer, uncaring, rude, entitled . . . I’m all for laws, but I also expect people to treat each other with respect, and to care for my health.”

The protest drew a response from Mills’ office later in the day which urged Maine people to continue to wear face coverings, not only to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission but “as a sign of respect for our fellow Maine citizens” and “to keep our economy up and running.”

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