What first sounded like a kooky conspiracy theory is quickly becoming a sound observation: Face mask mandates meant to stop the spread of coronavirus are eroding personal liberty at an alarming pace.
Such is the case in Miami-Dade County, Florida, where the Board of County Commissioners have passed an emergency ordinance to crack down on the unmasked by flooding the streets with additional enforcement personnel and slapping violators with fines, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
Republican Mayor Carlos Gimenez applauded the measure, which passed unanimously on July 16, imposing fines of $100 for individuals and $500 for businesses who are noncompliant with the face mask mandate, as well as authorizing fire and code inspectors to issue tickets for violators.
“This is an all-hands-on-deck approach. We need to have not just police officers, but all inspectors — our code inspectors, our fire inspectors — on deck to enforce the rules we know people are not complying with,” Gimenez said.
In other words, in a major metropolitan area that has its share of real crime, police and inspectors will canvass the streets to make sure everyone is wearing the requisite piece of cloth on their faces.
“We’re going to put a heck of a lot of people out there,” Gimenez reportedly told commissioners. “Our people are going to go everywhere.”
The mayor posted his praises on Twitter the day the ordinance passed, not only publicizing the fines and enforcement efforts but also holding out the promise of a “return to normal life” as the proverbial carrot on a stick in case fines and veiled threats of lockdowns were not enough.
“I applaud @MiamiDadeBCC’s unanimous decision to make the violation of our masks order a civil infraction,” Gimenez tweeted.
“This allows code enforcement officers to issue citations to those who don’t comply with the emergency order in @MiamiDadeCounty, helping police with this task.”
“The faster we comply with these rules the faster we can return to normal life and get our economy rolling again” — that’s how Gimenez phrased the “comply or else” ultimatum.
“More details on this will be forthcoming,” he wrote.
The faster we comply with these rules the faster we can return to normal life and get our economy rolling again. More details on this will be forthcoming. (2/2)
— Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez (@MayorGimenez) July 16, 2020
Many rightly called out the mayor for his attack on personal liberty with the new ordinance.
This is the same way Castro used to do it. People are going crazy because they are loosing everything they have spent their whole life working for and this idiot comes out with stupidities like this one to distract people from the harm he is doing to them.
— CCarrazana (@ccarrazanajr) July 17, 2020
MANDATORY IS TYRANNY!! If the person in front of you is not wearing a mask ? cross the street! We all will remember this the day we go to vote the last time I checked we are not a communist country…. I can’t wait for you to be out of the office….
— PerfectFeetCare (@PerfectFeetCare) July 17, 2020
Again if masks work open our city
— Nila DePalo (@nileend) July 17, 2020
Are we in Cuba or Miami?
— 305Vibe (@305_Vibe) July 16, 2020
A follow-up report in the Sun-Sentinel on Tuesday said that “a team of 39 police officers will be dedicated solely to enforcing mask violations,” and they will be joined by an untold number of inspectors.
The report also said the $100 fine would turn into a “notice to appear” or possible arrest after an individual’s third offense (although there is an option to lessen the fine and take community service).
In addition, officials mulled prohibiting private gatherings of more than 10 people, using social media to hunt down large gatherings in order to crash their parties and break them up.
These actions are nothing short of tyranny and a blatant violation of citizens’ First Amendment freedom of assembly, even if it is in the name of public health.
The number of COVID-19 cases is increasing in Florida and hospitals are stretched to their limits in some places, but these tactics are alarming in their reach and scope.
It isn’t an exaggeration to imagine a kids’ backyard birthday party being crashed by law enforcement officers as they chase away revelers and issue tickets to any of those who dared to appear in public with a naked face.
Gimenez himself hasn’t been the most consistent on handling COVID-19 anyway, waffling about opening and closing restaurants and the risks involved, but he seems to have overcorrected in a moment of political panic.
This virus is dangerous to some folks, such as older people and those with pre-existing conditions, but as with all facets of life, individuals need to weigh their risks and act accordingly rather than expecting the nation’s economy to indefinitely come to a grinding halt.
Coronavirus is a potentially fatal pathogen, but robbing Americans of their constitutional rights to stop it is, for many, a fate worse than death.
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