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Man scales 600-foot Strip hotel to protest new COVID mask mandate

Updated August 4, 2021 - 4:54 pm

At the first glimpse of sunlight on Tuesday, Las Vegas-based rock climber Maison Des Champs set out to scale the exterior of a Strip hotel in protest of Nevada’s latest COVID-19 mask mandate for indoor public areas.

Maison Des Champs, 22, said he had been scouting the Aria, a 600-foot-tall skyscraper, for the better part of the past year.

After his grandfather died by suicide during last year’s pandemic-triggered lockdown, Des Champs said, he was inspired to find a way to peacefully protest against Nevada’s mandates in his grandfather’s honor.

“I don’t expect everyone to agree with me,” the climber told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Wednesday. “COVID is dangerous, and masks aren’t that big of a deal, but it’s what they stand for: a loss of freedom and personal choice.”

By the time Gov. Steve Sisolak had announced the latest mask requirement, which went into effect Friday, Des Champs said he was ready to scale the Aria.

The new order, based on revised guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, applies in counties with substantial or high rates of transmission of COVID-19, including Clark County. As of Wednesday, more than 5,950 people in Nevada had been killed by the virus.

Ropeless, Des Champs began climbing around 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

Less than a half-hour later, with about 30 feet of climbing left before topping out, Des Champs said someone inside what appeared to be a corporate office had noticed him on the exterior of the building.

A request for comment from MGM Resorts International, which operates the hotel-casino, was not immediately returned Wednesday.

Soon after he was spotted, Des Champ said, he was met by Las Vegas police officers at the top of the Strip hotel, after scaling more than 60 floors.

“This reckless act is extremely dangerous & very illegal,” Las Vegas police Capt. Dori Koren wrote in a social media post on Wednesday.

Des Champs was arrested on one count each of trespassing not amounting to burglary and disorderly conduct — both misdemeanor charges. He was released from custody by noon on Tuesday “with no regrets.”

“The climb wasn’t as big of an accomplishment as the courage it took for me to do it,” he said. “I knew I was going to get arrested, and I took the risk because this is important to me. Wearing a mask, staying at home, those are choices that each person should be allowed to make.”

Des Champs plans to protest against the mask mandate — from the ground — at 8 am. on Aug. 14 outside Planet Hollywood Resort. He hopes others will join him in peaceful protest.

Contact Rio Lacanlale at rlacanlale@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter.

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