A weeks-old anti-mask protest in Utah has become the source of online backlash after a TV news report detailing the rally went viral on social media.
The protest, which drew hundreds to the Washington County School District building in St. George, was held Aug. 21 in opposition to a school mask mandate required statewide by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.
A protester at the march, per The Spectrum, part of the USA TODAY Network, said during a closing prayer that “safety is not as important as our freedom and liberty.”
“Forcing masks on our children is child abuse,” the man, identified as Eric Moutsos, later said at the protest, The Spectrum reported.
Washington County School District Director of Communications Steve Dunham expressed frustration at protesters, calling it “so dang selfish” that people wouldn’t wear a mask in an effort to protect others.
The demonstration was organized by a conservative group known as Liberty Action Coalition. It does not have any presence online beyond a Facebook group started in July.
Though it took place weeks ago, the demonstration gained national attention after a news report from Salt Lake City TV station KTVX-TV was shared on Twitter and TikTok this week.
The TV spot, posted on Twitter by Mediaite reporter Tommy Christopher, has since attracted more than 12 million views on the platform as of Monday evening.
One protester compared mask-wearing to the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police on Memorial Day, an incident that sparked national protests against racial inequality and police brutality.
“When George Floyd was saying ‘I can’t breathe’ and then he died, and now we’re wearing a mask, and we say ‘I can’t breathe,’ but we’re being forced to wear it anyway,” said resident Shauna Kinville to KTVX.
Another resident, Betty Jake, told KTVX she hated masks because “most child molesters love them.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: St. George, Utah anti-mask protest condemned on social media