Criminal Justice

Florida lawyer is arrested after refusing to put mask back on at city meeting

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A lawyer in Gainesville, Florida, was arrested Thursday when he refused to put his face mask back on while addressing the city commission.

Ray Washington, 65, was arrested on a charge of trespassing, report Law360, the Gainesville Sun and CBS 4 News (here and here).

Washington spent the night in jail before he was released the next day on his own recognizance. Judge Susan Miller Jones ordered him to have no contact with city hall, according to Law360.

The incident is on video. Washington was wearing a mask when he began to address the commission about a utility monitoring system and the costs to consumers. The mask slipped below his nose several times, and he took it off.

Mayor Lauren Poe asked Washington to put his mask back on, but he refused. Washington said he wanted to be heard, and he was more than 6 feet away from anyone. The mayor adjourned the meeting. The city manager then spoke to Washington about putting his mask on.

Washington continued to refuse, then raised his arms in the air and said he was ready to be handcuffed. At this point, he agreed to put his mask back on.

Asked to step outside without being handcuffed, Washington refused.

“I’d like to test this, so please take me to jail,” he said.

He was eventually handcuffed with his hands behind his back.

Washington told CBS 4 News that Poe was 12 feet away from him and was surrounded by plexiglass. He also said he was having trouble breathing.

“This has nothing to do with masks,” Washington said.

He thinks the aim was to prevent him from communicating.

Poe “is wrapping himself in that,” Washington told CBS 4 News. “This is a phony issue. This is about stopping information about a rate hike that’s coming down the road.”

“Every time that they expel somebody, they have some rationale for it. That’s why we need to go to court,” he said. “We have to show the rationales for what they are.”

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