Police are investigating a man who gave a Nazi salute and chanted “Heil Hitler” during a noisy Birmingham Board of Education meeting about a mask mandate for students.
The rebel anti-maskers booed and hurled insults at board members and speakers, including a high school student, who spoke in favor of covering his face during the meeting Wednesday night.
Anti-maskers spewed falsehoods about COVID-19, telling board members that masks are dangerous and that children are not at risk of spreading the virus, despite a great deal of evidence to the contrary. Several parents said they are taking their children out of school because of the mandate.
The comments came after the board and superintendent announced that students, staff and teachers will be required to wear masks indoors by the start of the school year.
Parents packed two rooms at the school and dozens were not wearing masks.
As a black woman and a Jewish woman addressed the board about their support for the mask policy, a man in the audience showed the Nazi salute and repeated “Heil Hitler.” Two men behind him also spoke the phrase.
Police questioned the man during the meeting and are investigating whether he committed a crime.
Superintendent Embekka Roberson notified parents of the Nazi salute in a letter Wednesday, saying the district does not tolerate hatred.
“Birmingham Public Schools strongly denounces and will not tolerate any act of racism, disrespect, violence and / or unfair treatment of any person, including actions and statements made at Board of Education meetings. It is in situations where people feel strongly about an issue and emotions are intense that we most need to model appropriate behaviors for our students, ”wrote Roberson. “Last night’s meeting did not consistently display the behaviors we expect from our students and community.”
During the meeting, some parents compared the masks to child abuse.
Nicole Humphrey said she will take her daughter out of school because the masks make her uncomfortable.
“Hearing that the only way you can attend learning in person is by wearing a mask is inconceivable,” he told the board. “It’s not going to happen. It’s like asking us to knowingly send her to a place where she’s being abused and saying, ‘Oh well’.… It’s not okay.”
Another parent said that God did not intend for people to wear masks, that she falsely claimed they were “ineffective” and increased the risk of cancer.
“Our children will never see the freedoms we enjoy growing up,” he said. “They don’t even have the freedom to breathe fresh air. If God wanted us to cover our mouths and noses, He would have made us that way. ”
Since the masks are not effective, said mother Sarah Flynn, the school board imposed the mandate of the mask “to protect itself politically.” “COVID presents almost zero risk to children,” Flynn said. “The forced mask mandates for something that has a nearly zero percent chance of killing them is child abuse.”
This father claims that God did not intend for people to wear masks. pic.twitter.com/iXzuSRVqfk
– Steve Neavling (@MCmuckraker) August 19, 2021
During the meeting, Roberson said the mask’s mandate is aimed at “making sure students can attend in person.”
Lori Ajlouny, chairwoman of the board, repeatedly ordered anti-maskers to stop disrupting the meeting, saying that the mask’s mandate is a common sense measure to protect children from a highly contagious and dangerous virus.
“We do this for the safety of our children,” he said. “I don’t like wearing masks, but I will do what is best for the children.”
Health experts say masks are critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19 in schools. On Sunday, Francis Collins, director of the National Institute of Health, warned of a sharp increase in the number of pediatric cases of the more potent “Delta” variant of the virus that causes COVID-19.
On Tuesday, Republican lawmakers presented a bill that would prevent school districts from requiring students to wear masks.
On Thursday, two state legislators expressed their disgust at the Nazi salute.
“I am shocked and appalled to see the use of racist and Nazi language and images in our community, particularly by parents attending a school board meeting. Let me be clear: racism, anti-Semitism, and any other form of bigotry and hatred have no place in our speech or in our community, and I strongly condemn the use of this phrase and gesture at yesterday’s Board of Education meeting ”, said Rep. Mari Manoogian, D-Birmingham, said. “Over the past 18 months, our state, country, and world have suffered collective trauma. But the use of Nazi phrases and gestures is beyond limits in any context; it does not respect the memory of those killed in the Holocaust and dishonors the values of our community. Actions like these must be expelled from our society at all levels, and we must resume mutual commitment in the spirit of understanding, kindness and mutual respect, themes that form the core of the values taught within BPS. ”
State Sen. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, said: “The Holocaust was the systematic state-sponsored persecution and annihilation of European Jews and others. As someone with family members who suffered heinous and violent deaths at the hands of the Nazis, I can assure this member of the BPS community that the Holocaust is not a school board meeting. ”