Hilton Head Island residents protest against masks and local state of emergency at town council meeting

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 11:35 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - One day after the Town of Hilton Head Island implemented a local ‘state of emergency’ on the island, residents came before town council to protest against it. It led to the meeting being cut short and nothing on the agenda being discussed or voted on.

Council originally planned to discuss the local state of emergency, items like the Gullah Geechee Land and Cultural Preservation Project and more.

Dozens of Hilton Head Island residents filled the halls and town council meeting room Tuesday to protest.

“If you are truly saying ‘We are all in this together’ then let us do what is right for us and do not force your masks on us,” said one resident.

This comes just 24 hours after Mayor John McCann signed a state of emergency declaration.

”Quite frankly we do not trust you. You have not given us any reason to trust you over the past 18 months and we believe that somewhere in the state of emergency the next thing is going to be the masks and that is why we are here and we are not happy with them today,” said another resident.

Adults and some children held signs and chanted.

One by one multiple residents took turns speaking in front of council including resident Arlene Brown.

”It is not good for our community. It is not good for our country. It is not good for the world to be put one against the other,” said Brown.

Council chose to take a break and then the meeting abruptly ended.

Brandon Arrieta says he came to the meeting as an observer and is working with the U.S. Senate to address what he says is a lack of reliable information made during the pandemic.

”You have one side that is fearful that they are going to lose everything in their world economically because their business or their job will be shut down and they will not know what to do next and they will have to rely on government bailout or a handout,” said Arrieta. “The other side is fearful for safety and health for themselves and for others. For whatever reason those two positions are right now, mutually exclusive when they should not be and it is a great place for us to find common ground and start working is to try and tackle the fears.”

The local state of emergency requires masks only in town-owned buildings.

The rise in COVID-19 cases affecting local health facilities in Hilton Head and Beaufort County is cited in the order.

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