Lewis County Sheriff Robert Snaza made these controversial remarks while addressing a conspicuously maskless crowd of locals outside a church last week
Hours after Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee announced a statewide mandate requiring people to wear masks in public, a Republican sheriff in southwest Washington was filmed urging locals to defy the order.
Addressing a conspicuously maskless crowd of locals outside a church last week, Lewis County Sheriff Robert Snaza said people should break the coronavirus safety order to avoid being "sheep." Carrying a megaphone and sporting his green and beige uniform—sans a facemask—he said, "In case you guys didn't hear, Gov. Inslee in his infinite wisdom has decided after over a hundred and some odd days that we should all wear face masks; inside and out."
"Here's what I say: Don't be a sheep," he added to loud applause from those gathered. Snaza's comments, which were captured by a photographer for The Daily Chronicle newspaper and posted to YouTube, have since been heavily criticized on social media with many calling for him to be fired or ousted in the upcoming election.
According to The Washington Post, the sheriff's stance on the need for facemasks seemed to echo the sentiments a billboard above the crowd which read: "Oh, no! A virus. Quick — burn the bill of rights."
In an interview the following day, Snaza told Oregon Public Broadcasting that his controversial statements came at the end of a speech that lasted several minutes and that it stemmed from frustration over the governor's COVID-19 policies. "My frustration is we continue to listen to the governor's requests without asking questions, without saying: 'Well wait a minute, there's the other side to this' and in particular wearing the mask," he said. Snaza, who was first elected in 2014, added that he's not convinced face masks do help prevent the spread of coronavirus and that he believes it should be an option and not mandatory.
@RobSnaza you've made yourself infamous with the following...“Don’t be a sheep,” Lewis County Sheriff Robert Snaza said to loud applause from a mostly mask-less crowd gathered in a church parking lot. pic.twitter.com/msGKooTB0j— PJnZoey (@jn_pickles) June 26, 2020
"Yet we’re telling people now to wear it and if you don’t wear it, we’re going to cite you for that," he said.
Addressing Snaza's comments at a news conference about requirements for higher education institutions to reopen amid the virus, Gov Inslee said he was disappointed at the sheriff's remarks, reports The Seattle Times. "I think people who are law-abiding, those who are wearing their seat belts because it’s law and it’s safe, those who are wearing face masks because it is both the law and is safe — I just don’t agree with calling those folks somehow barnyard animals," he said. "They’re protecting other people."
Lewis county Washington sherif Robert Snaza @GovInslee won’t enforce mandatory masks and I’m so disgusted with this . I live in this reckless ignorant county and there has to be something that can be done when the sheriff won’t comply ... #TrumpCult pic.twitter.com/l5WzQ0hb9s— Emily Diane (@EmilyDiane360) June 25, 2020
Snaza went into more detail about his statement in another interview KIRO 7 News—this time, wearing a protective face mask. "When I said don’t be a sheep it means you don’t have to be a follower, it’s OK to be a free thinker. It’s OK to ask questions. It’s OK to say why," he said. "And I just want them to know it’s OK to speak up, it’s OK to say how you feel, it’s OK to say you support the First Amendment, it’s OK to support the Second Amendment. It’s OK to say I don’t like what’s going on right now."
Lewis County Sheriff Robert Snaza tells a crowd, "don't be a sheep" as he addressed the Governor's statewide order to wear face masks to slow the spread of COVID-19. He tells me what he means at 5:30pm on @KIRO7Seattle pic.twitter.com/DANv8JHNtR— Kevin McCarty (@KevinKIRO7) June 24, 2020
"Now I understand where he’s coming from. He saying science and data. But then to say outside in the environment every day when they’re just walking down the sidewalk? I kind of have disagreements with that," he added.
Snaza stated that one of his major concerns is the enforcement of the mask mandate order as it gives law enforcement the authority to act and issue citations to people defying the order. "We will investigate each complaint on a case-by-case basis and we will do all the education we can. But that’s as far as we’re going to go," he said.