Anti-Mask Protesters Interrupt Utah Capitol Meeting

Jan 25, 2021, 6:45 PM | Updated: 9:21 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Capitol reopened Monday only to have a state Legislature meeting interrupted by anti-mask protesters.

Lawmakers who were in the committee meeting said it’s not clear what the small group wanted.

Wearing a mask is required in all state buildings.

Capitol room where mask protesters interrupted a subcommittee meeting. (Mike Anderson/KSL-TV)

Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, said masks and social distancing need to happen to keep this session going and open to the public.

“I would expect something like that maybe outside in the Rotunda,” he said.

Three people brought their mask disagreement into the Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee, which Ray co-chairs.

“They had some flyers. Of course, you know (Utah) Highway Patrol asked us to step out while they cleared the rest of the room, so I don’t know what the flyers said. But it sounded like it was more of an anti-mask protest,” he said.

Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield. (Mike Anderson/KSL-TV)

He added his subcommittee is not the best place to take this fight.

“Social services deals with people that are disabled, who have high-risk health issues. Of any of the committees, that’s the wrong committee to come in and try to make a statement,” Ray said.

State troopers asked the protesters to mask up, but they refused.

“This is a health order,” said Sen. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi. “Whether I agree with it or not, it is a health order that we must comply with.”

Anderegg then called for a brief recess before sending the meeting online.

“We want to keep the Capitol open for the public and the only way we’re going to keep it open is to abide by a mask standard,” Ray said. “I hate masks. I probably hate it more than anybody. But that’s the rule to have a session.”

Beyond keeping the public safe, the rules are there for lawmakers too. Right now, three lawmakers are out after testing positive for COVID-19, including Rep. Jon Hawkins, R-Pleasant Grove, who is currently hospitalized.

FILE: Rep. Jon Hawkins, R-Pleasant Grove. (KSL-TV)

House Speaker Brad Wilson issued a statement Monday evening that said, “Representative Hawkins is known for his jovial nature and we have certainly felt his absence during these opening days of the session. We have been in regular contact with his family to stay up to date on his condition and to offer the collective best wishes of the House. Representative Hawkins is a well-respected and esteemed member of our body and we hope to have him back at the Capitol, representing his constituents as soon as he is back to health.”

The statement said the Hawkins family has “asked for privacy during this challenging time.”

Lawmakers undergo rapid COVID-19 testing as they come into the Capitol.

That’s where Senate Budget Vice Chairman Don Ipson, R-St. George, and Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, found out they tested positive Monday morning.

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Anti-Mask Protesters Interrupt Utah Capitol Meeting