The Gallatin County Board of Health, located in Bozeman, walked out of their own meeting earlier today after citizens showed up in overwhelming opposition to their proposals to mandate the use of masks.
SUMMARY: Being forced by law to allow for public comment, the county health board gathered at a local church but orchestrated an environment in which very few could sit within the auditorium or speak their mind. When a crowd of several hundred citizens gathered in the back, the board demanded they leave. When the crowd didn’t do as commanded by the unelected bureaucrats, the board stormed out of their own meeting. Ultimately, the sheriff refused to cite or penalize the citizens for their actions, much to the chagrin of local health officials.
Calling the group of several hundred concerned residents “protestors,” local media downplayed the tantrum of the health board. Social media accounts of those in attendance tell a different story, however.
Montana law requires county health boards, which are non-elected officials (often without health credentials or education) seek comments from the public before making decisions that affect the public (see below). According to state law, local health boards are to be comprised of at least five officials, serving in three-year staggered terms. These officials are appointed by the county commissioners and/or governing bodies of cities participating in the health boards (or via criterion laid out in an agreement between the counties and cities involved). For an exhaustive list of regulations regarding local health boards, click here.
The Gallatin County Health Board consists of Seth Walk, I-Ho Pomeroy, Becky Franks, Buck Taylor, Christopher Coburn, Mari Eggers, Joe Skinner, Justin Kamerman, and Steve Custer. Most, like I-Ho Pomeroy (a leftwing activist who operates an Asian restaurant) have no experience in medicine whatsoever.
According to reports of local residents, the decision by the health board to require masks was already made and they did not want comments from the public. Limiting seating to public distance requirements set by constitutionally-dubious orders and poor planning, in general, led to an escalation of hostilities at the meeting.
One attendee wrote in social media, “Poor planning resulted in not enough seating for the amount of people that were present. The number of people entering the building and taking seats was not monitored, and the people of Gallatin County were not notified that there would only be a select number of people allowed to participate in the meeting.”
It’s then that the unelected Health Board demanded that the people standing in the back leave the room. Predictably, they did not comply.
The attendee described the scene, “Once the meeting began, those that were standing were asked to leave, they did not move. They were asked again to leave, and those standing responded with a ‘no.’ And rightly so. By law, they were allowed to be there to hear the discussion and give public comment. Citizens then asked if they could be provided with chairs to sit in since only those seated were allowed to stay. They were not provided with chairs. There was one single man who became frustrated and eventually heated and began yelling. And then others began to ‘woohoo’ and yell things like ‘my body, my choice’ or ‘a mandate is not law.’ “
Jenna Dodge of the group, Gallatin Unmasked, provided a recap of the meeting on the organization’s Facebook page. According to Dodge and other attendees, much of the confusion at the event was not due to the supposed unruliness of the citizens, but the lack of explanation, signage, and direction on the part of health board organizers.
Once the health board knew they could not control the meeting, they announced that the meeting would be held later in the day at 1:30 in the afternoon (ostensibly after they could use law enforcement to better enforce their arbitrary rules). It’s then that the crowd reminded the board of Montana law that requires 48 hours notice to hold a meeting and that the revised meeting time would not allow enough notice.
Most on the board fled the scene when it became clear that the crowd would not disperse or be quiet and that they would insist that Montana laws be followed in regard to health board regulations.
One local report says, “The sheriff stayed after the board of health members, aside from Joe Skinner, left. Brian Gootkin shared with us that he and his officers will not be enforcing this mandate should it be put into place, and he encouraged us to do what we the people can do about these appointed council members who refused to listen to what the people had to say – take it to the capitol and write these people out of their positions if they are not going to do their job – listen to the people.”
According to reports, the health board has rescheduled the meeting for Friday at the early time of 7AM, which some suggest is early enough to deter some citizens from attending.
If you would like to provide public comment without attending, you can do so by clicking here. However, if you are able to attend the meeting, it might be more effective to do so in person.