Deschutes Co. DA: No mask-related charges following ‘We Will Not Comply’ rally

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Deschutes County DA John Hummel announced Tuesday he won’t file any charges against a group of non-mask-wearers involved in a “We Will Not Comply” rally last month.

More than 100 people gathered in downtown Bend Nov. 21 to protest the governor’s mask mandate and two-week freeze that closed some Oregon businesses and reduced capacity at others while asking families to limit gathering sizes for Thanksgiving in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Hummel said four people called the police to report the group, saying they weren’t wearing masks, apparently in violation of the governor’s order.

Tommy Szymanski, the event organizer, told police he thought the mask mandate was unconstitutional and said it was an individual choice whether to wear the mask, Hummel said.

Police didn’t issue any citations at the event but did refer the matter to Hummel’s office.

Hummel said the event organizer was incorrect in saying the mask mandate was unconstitutional.

But enforcing the mandate when a group “gathers to exercise a constitutional right (in this case, to assemble to redress their government), it would create a conflict between the lawful mask law and the constitutional right that is being exercised.”

“As long as people who gather to exercise a constitutional right are not violent or destructive when doing so, I generally defer to protecting their constitutional rights over the enforcement of any statutory violations they may commit while exercising their rights,” he said in a statement. “My philosophy is content-neutral, meaning, it applies to people who gather for “liberal” causes and to people who gather for “conservative” causes.”

Hummel’s statement concludes by encouraging everyone to wear masks and keep your distance from others “so we can save lives, save businesses and save parent’s sanity by getting kids back to school.”

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