A tiny notice in a small-town newspaper about a meeting to enact a local mask mandate resulted in more than 100 angry citizens packed into the town hall Tuesday night.
On Monday, Waynesville, NC Mayor Gary Caldwell told The Mountaineer newspaper he supported a mask mandate and he would "more than likely" sign it into law after the City Council meeting on Tuesday.
"To keep the citizens here in Waynesville safe, this will be a good step," Caldwell told the paper on Monday. "It's gotten to the point where we gotta do this to try to get those numbers to come down."
But the mayor and five board members did not expect the angry backlash from more than 100 people piled into town hall screaming their heads off about their rights being violated.
When told they had to wear a mask to participate in the meeting, they refused, and chanted "take it outside" since the tiny town hall wasn't large enough.
Residents were tired of city government mandates telling them what to do. Many demanded the right to make their own medical decisions.
More police were called in to control the crowd. Those wishing to speak were asked to fill out a form and wait until their names were called.
According to The Mountaineer, the five City Council members entered through a back door and were ushered into a back room to wait until police reinforcements arrived.
Attempts to disperse the angry crowd were futile. The residents were told only 20 people could enter the board room at a time. The others would have to wait outside.
Eventually the doors to the board room were closed to drown out the loud cheers and clapping by those in the hall.
Attorney Bill Cannon finally called the meeting after 32 minutes, saying the allotted time for the hearing was up. The hearing was expected to last 90 minutes.
Many outside still waiting to speak were furious. Waynesville resident Janet Presson told The Mountaineer that board members were "unprepared" for the backlash to a mask mandate.
"I think they were dumbfounded and horrified," Presson said. "Mask mandates are a major issue that affect every single person. It is a hot-button issue. They should have done some better planning."
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