ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The mayor of Alaska’s largest city apologized Thursday for his comments supporting some residents’ use of Holocaust imagery to liken a proposed citywide mask mandate to the oppression of Jewish people in Nazi Germany.
Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson has said he staunchly opposes the proposal and initially defended the use of yellow Stars of David worn by other critics this week at heated public hearings. Such imagery has been used by opponents of mask and vaccine mandates across the U.S., drawing condemnation from the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish organizations.
The proposal before the Anchorage Assembly would require people to wear masks in indoor public spaces and outdoors at large events. If approved as written, businesses and building owners would be required to deny entry to people not wearing masks, though there are exceptions for small children and some others.
It comes as Alaska experiences a spike in coronavirus cases. The state has seen a 42% increase in newly confirmed COVID-19 cases over last week, officials said, and its largest hospital has declared crisis standards that allow the overwhelmed facility to modify its normal levels of care.
The mask proposal has provoked a strong response.
Four people were arrested during a Wednesday assembly hearing on the measure, two for disorderly conduct and two for trespassing. One also faces a weapons misconduct charge for allegedly carrying a concealed gun, Anchorage Police Sgt. Ken Bushue told the Anchorage Daily News.
Anchorage instituted mask mandates under two different mayoral administrations. But Bronson was elected in May after pledging not to enact mask mandates.
During a Tuesday assembly meeting, he said the proposed mask mandate is “reckless and ill conceived.”
“I oppose this ordinance because it is based on inconclusive science, because it is bad policy, and because it is an unconstitutional infringement on the freedom guaranteed to every Anchorage citizen by our federal and state constitutions,” Bronson said. “But most of all, I oppose this ordinance because it pits neighbor against neighbor, shop owner against customer and friend against friend.”
At a hearing the next day, he defended the use of the yellow stars, with the words “Do not comply,” worn by some attendees opposing the mask mandate.