ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A highly contentious debate over a proposed mask mandate for Alaska’s largest city that has included Holocaust imagery and a gay slur will continue into a fourth session next week.
After hearing testimony for days, the Anchorage Assembly extended the public comment period about the proposed ordinance to Monday during its Thursday evening meeting, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
Mayor David Bronson, who opposes the mask mandate, apologized on Thursday for his comments supporting some residents’ wearing homemade yellow Stars of David, like the patches Holocaust victims wore, because those opposed to the proposed mandate claimed their effort is similar to what Jews faced in Nazi Germany.
Bronson also called for people on both sides of the issue to be more civil. Four people at Wednesday’s meeting were arrested, including a man who called the assembly’s vice chair, Chris Constant, a homophobic slur.
Bronson also apologized to Constant.
“I didn’t stand up and speak in your defense. And I apologize for doing that. Quite frankly, I was caught off guard. And then he was gone before I gathered my thoughts, and I apologize for not speaking up. What was said was intolerable.” Bronson said.
Constant said he wasn’t surprised with the slur.
“The part that in fact shocked me to silence was when roughly 200 people cheered zealously. That was the part that zinged me and really took my breath away for a minute,” he said.
Constant added: “What we have to do is figure out how together, we can be better. And that is not a that-tribe-versus-that-tribe issue. That is a community issue in Anchorage, and this moment is an opportunity for us to move through this to a better place."
Assembly member Kameron Perez-Verdia said he was challenged when trying to explain to his children why people at the meeting misbehaved.
“Everyone has a right here to come up to speak and to share their thoughts and ideas ... but they don’t have a right to threaten, they don’t have a right to degrade, and they don’t have a right to be disrespectful,” he said.
For the most part, Thursday’s meeting was calmer than previous sessions, with only one person asked to leave, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Most of the people who testified spoke against the mask mandate.
If the proposal is approved as currently written, Anchorage businesses and building owners would be required to deny entry to people not wearing masks, with exceptions for small children and others.
The Associated Press