More than four dozen Campbell County residents gathered in front of the courthouse in downtown Gillette Thursday night, protesting the latest health orders released by Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon earlier this week.
“I do not want to be told what to do by the government,” Shannon Hanson, who organized the protest through Facebook, said. “I am not a child. I don’t need a curfew. I don’t need a mask because I’m not in surgery and I’m not a doctor.”
Her words garnered cheers from the estimated 50 residents in attendance, who agreed with Hanson’s disbelief of guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), urging crowd size restrictions, social distancing, and the use of face masks to reportedly slow the spread of COVID-19.
The orders in question took effect Dec. 9 and included Wyoming’s first state-wide mask mandate, requiring all residents and employees to wear appropriate face coverings in public spaces Dec. 9. Prior to this statewide mandate, 19 Wyoming counties already had mask mandates in place.
The governor’s new orders also included closing bars and restaurants between 10 p.m. – 5 a.m. and restricting indoor gatherings – including at one’s residence – to fewer than 10 people.
In a Dec. 9 County 17 poll, respondents were overwhelmingly against the mask mandate and the new restrictions.
Of the more than 1,300 respondents, more than 1,100 were against while only 46 were in favor. An additional 122 of those who responded said they ‘care.’
In comments regarding the poll, many questioned the science of masks, objected to the government overreach and defended a person’s constitutional right to make their own medical choices among other comments against the mandate, largely mirroring those of many attendants last night.
These residents who showed up for the protest “showed true patriotism,” Hanson said. She was happy with the turnout and indicated that it was very important for people to come together to make their voices heard.
“We have to make a stand against this mandate and craziness,” Hanson said. “We don’t need to be shut down. We don’t have to be told how many people we can have in our homes at any time.”
People have and use common sense here, she added, echoing statements from County Attorney Mitch Damsky and law enforcement officials earlier this week who declined to specifically criminalize residents who do not adhere to public health orders.
When Hanson first heard of the mandates coming down from the governor’s office, she said she felt confused.
“They’re forcing mandates even though our numbers are going down. It makes no sense,” she said.
This comes a day after the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) said it had received reports of 1,279 COVID-19 recoveries Thursday, bringing the total of active cases well below 4,000.
As of Thursday, there were 3,624 active cases of COVID-19 and 29,579 recoveries, per WDH.
Additionally, the health orders came after it was reported that mask use in Wyoming was rising rapidly, with 76% of surveyed Wyomingites reporting that they wear masks always or often when visiting indoor public spaces, according to a recent survey from the University of Wyoming.
Hanson believes the health orders and the mask mandate coincide with an alleged trend that may or may not be happening in the national government.
“We have election fraud going on, and we’ve got so much chaos in our large government that it’s leaking into our small government,” Hanson said, adding her belief that the government is attempting to pull the wool over the eyes of the public.
This distrust was echoed in a recent editorial published on Wyofile that noted Wyoming is reportedly ground zero in terms of media distrust.
Wyoming, however, was Hanson’s choice after leaving her home state, which she declined to identify, offering only that it was once a right-leaning community that was strong and patriotic during her 37 years there. But as time progressed, that community leaned more and more to the left as Democratic party members took office, spurring her on to move to a place like Wyoming.
“I came here specifically because we have Stand Your Ground laws and we don’t have people stomping all over your rights,” Hanson said.
But now with the mandates, Hanson feels that things are changing.
“It’s not why I moved here,” she said. “I moved here to uphold the laws that were set. And now they’re being neglected, they’re being abused.”
The government works for the people, not the other way around, Hanson said.
Jacob Dalby, who was passing around a petition against the new health orders in Campbell County shared many of Hanson’s views.
As of Thursday, his petition has received between 400 and 500 signatures, he said. Those numbers could be higher depending on the results from over 20 copies circulating around Campbell County, Dalby noted.
Once the petitions garner enough signatures, he said he plans to hand deliver the petition to the Campbell County Commissioners, the WDH and the governor’s office in Cheyenne after the new year. He hopes the petition will help local and state leaders see the will of the people.
Looking at the crowd, none of them wearing masks and hugging each other warmly against the cold, he said that things couldn’t get any better than this.
“Everybody on this list is people who are not going to sit down and take [the government’s] orders. We’re going to fight until the day we die,” Dalby said.