Residents stormed City Hall Tuesday night, expressing their outrage toward the Norman City Council as it deliberated imposing mask restrictions in private homes.
Despite protests, the council adopted changes to the mask ordinance and nuisance ordinance that includes homes under certain conditions.
The change in ordinance redefined a public setting to include public and private property, including private homes, the draft showed. It would mean anyone hosting a social gathering of more than 25 people “indoor or outdoor, on public or private property” is required to wear a mask if social distancing cannot be assured, City Attorney Kathryn Walker told councilors. It would also impose a fine from $50 to $500 for anyone caught violating the ordinance.
An Iraq War veteran told the council it was the same kind of draconian laws he saw in the Middle East as civil war broke out.
“When we took out Saddam Hussein, that country fell into disarray and civil war. The politicians egged it on and made draconian laws and made people like me go disarm them,” he said. “I told myself, ’I am so thankful that I’m an American because draconian laws would never work like that in America.’ And here I am. I can tell you what, you can make any law you want to, but you come into my house, telling me that I have to wear this stupid thing (mask) and you’re to have a firefight on your hands. I’m not backing down. I’m not scared of any of you.”
During previous meetings, the council has discussed the problem of house parties during game days and changing the nuisance law to include facial coverings during the pandemic as a reason to break up parties.
Ward 1 Kate Bierman mentioned one party recently where 400 people gathered for festivities.
While several residents threatened to use their “Second Amendment rights” to enforce their private property rights, many wrote emails in support of the proposed changes to the ordinance and asked the city to enforce it. Others contended it was hypocritical of the council to not enforce masks inside City Hall where some were unmasked next to a Norman Police Department officer who was not enforcing it.
Mayor Breea Clark said she was concerned about not getting the help she expected from police to enforce mask requirements.
At press time, the council had not voted on student resource officer funding.