MOSCOW, Idaho — A religious gathering at City Hall in Moscow, Idaho resulted in several arrests after some of those gathered were taken into custody for not complying with police directives after defying COVID-related restrictions, including not wearing masks — a mandate that was extended to Jan. 5 by city council.
According to the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Ben Zornes, a pastor of Christ Church who helped to organize the event, stated that they “wanted to make a statement we’re ready to head back to normal.” The report also noted that Zornes referred to the mask mandate as “largely groundless,” and that there needs to be pushback against such laws.
Moscow Police Chief James Fry stated that none of the five cited were wearing masks or social distancing.
A total of five people were cited. Of those cited, two were arrested for suspicion of resisting or obstructing an officer, including Republican Latah County Commission candidate Gabriel Rench for refusing to provide his identification to the officer upon request — though the officer reportedly knew who he was.
The “Public Health Emergency Order” went into effect in Moscow at the beginning of July 2020 and was set to expire on October 6, 2020. However, the Moscow City Council unanimously voted to keep the mask mandate in effect until January 5, 2021.
The order requires face covers to be worn when social distancing is not able to be maintained, which also mandates that masks be worn inside of businesses. Violations of the order are subject to a misdemeanor offense, which carries a maximum punishment of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.