Updated August 29, 2020 - 4:02 pm
A counterprotester was arrested at a No Mask Nevada rally on Saturday following a shoving match between him and anti-mask demonstrators.
The anti-mask protest, the seventh such demonstration organized by the No Mask Nevada PAC, drew nearly 200 people to Sunset Park. The man, who was carrying a pink “Honk if you are illiterate” sign, was arrested about 11:20 a.m. on suspicion of battery and challenging or engaging a person in a fight, Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Ken Nogle said.
Multiple protesters were following and yelling at the man as he walked in front of the demonstrators, even as a few in the group urged everyone to be peaceful. At one point, the man’s pink sign was ripped.
It was unclear who first started shoving, but after the confrontation, at least eight officers surrounded the man as he was arrested. Nogle said officers were investigating what led to the shoving and that as of noon Saturday no one else had been arrested.
Melissa Blundo, chair of the No Mask Nevada PAC, said the movement arguing that Gov. Steve Sisolak’s mask mandate is unconstitutional is gaining traction.
Blundo has previously said the group wants to focus on masks alone instead of political issues or debates regarding the pandemic, despite other protesters carrying signs supporting President Donald Trump and supporting coronavirus conspiracy theories.
“It is a First Amendment speech rally, so I don’t control what everyone brings to the rally,” she said Saturday.
Sascha Alexander, another counterprotester, briefly stood across the intersection with a black face covering, holding a sign reading,“Wear a mask.” He said the anti-mask supporters should know that “masks work” and others support wearing them.
“I’ve had people yell at me, call me names,” Alexander said as a woman sitting nearby with a sign reading, “Medical Tyranny,” who declined to give her name, shouted at him.
About five men at the protest were seen wearing the black polo shirts with yellow trim that the Washington Post has reported are favored by the Proud Boys, a group the Anti Defamation League says has many white supremacist and anti-Semitic members. One held a sign reading, “Kyle Rittenhouse did nothing wrong,” referencing a 17-year-old Antioch, Illinois, resident accused of killing two people during a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, over the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Another man was seen holding a sign reading “Boogaloo 2020” and wearing a Hawaiian shirt indicative of the decentralized anti-government Boogaloo movement. Three suspected members of the Boogaloo movement were arrested in late May after allegedly attempting to incite violence at anti-racism protests in Las Vegas.
The No Mask Nevada group this week claimed police were attempting to stop them from waving flags. The debate actually came from last week’s gathering, when officers told organizers that large poles are banned at protests because of a Clark County ordinance.
Blundo said Saturday that no Metro officer had spoken to her about poles the protesters were carrying, many of which were similar or identical to the large poles at previous demonstrations.
She said the group plans to hold protests about once a week.
“We will continue until the mask mandate is gone,” she said.
As of Saturday, the Department of Health and Human Services has reported 68,461 cases of the coronavirus across Nevada, and 1,302 fatalities.