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Protesters burn masks at Idaho Capitol rally against rules


BOISE (AP) — At least a hundred people gathered at the front of the Idaho Capitol on Saturday to burn masks in a protest against measures taken to limit infections and deaths caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Some groups say mask mandates are a restriction of their freedoms. Health experts say they help slow the spread of the disease.

Videos posted on social media showed adults encouraging children to toss masks into a fire.

The mask burnings were attended by Idaho residents and politicians, including Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin and Idaho Rep. Dorothy Moon, according to photos of the event.

Republican Gov. Brad Little has never issued a statewide mask mandate, but seven Idaho counties and 11 cities have such mandates in place.

Visitors to the Capitol are asked to wear masks, but they’re not required and few Republican lawmakers wear them. A Republican lawmaker on Wednesday introduced legislation to prohibit mask mandates.

Idaho State Police issued a news release Saturday afternoon about the event. The release said an open flame was ignited in a barrel. Those involved with the event were informed both before and during the event that open flames are not allowed on State Capitol grounds. The incident is being investigated. The conversation with police was recorded in the video above by Sergio Olmos with Oregon Public Broadcasting.

More than 170,000 Idaho residents have been infected with the virus, and nearly 1,900 have died.

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