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Anti-mask rally draws large crowd at Nebraska Capitol

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Anti-mask rally

More than 100 people showed up on the steps of the Capitol on Saturday afternoon to voice their concerns about Lincoln's mask mandate.

More than 100 people showed up on the steps of the state Capitol on Saturday afternoon to voice their concerns about Lincoln's mask mandate.

A Facebook group named No Mask Lincoln, which boasts more than 5,000 members and is led by founder Janell Folkerts, organized the rally. 

The protesters made their way from The Railyard at noon to the north steps of the Capitol, where the national anthem was performed and Folkerts asked the crowd, "Aren't you proud to live in the United States?"

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The rally boasted six speakers, including Folkerts and Benjamin Madsen, the general manager of Madsen's Bowling & Billiards who has voiced his intent to run for Lincoln City Council.

Mary Heitkamp of Nebraska City said she attended the rally because she believed the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department's mask mandate intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus will end up negatively affecting many other things.

"I see the masks affecting businesses all around Nebraska," she said. "I support the right to wear or not wear a mask. It shouldn't be forced."

Cars honked at the crowd, responding to posters with "Honk for freedom!" carefully stenciled. Large U.S. flags were waved alongside other posters that read "Take the mask off," "Keep your mask off my kid" and "Trump 2020."  

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"I'm here because I wanted my voice heard," said Cindy Latoza of Lincoln. "Freedoms were not fought for so we could be told we can't do something."

When people in passing cars made rude gestures, those at the rally responded with "We love you."

Jill Robichaux said the mask mandate has been particularly hard on her and her 16-year-old daughter, who have post-traumatic stress disorder from a hurricane they experienced. According to Robichaux, wearing a mask makes her daughter's anxiety flare up.

"We get so many eye rolls when we tell establishments that we are medically exempt," she said, her husband waving a flag next to her. "They think we're lying, but it's an actual thing. ... You put a muzzle on a dog, not a person."

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Sadiyah AIi is a Portland, Oregon native and senior at University of Nebraska-Lincoln studying journalism and political science.

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