Mask-optional supporters rally in North Park

Residents from across the North Hills met Tuesday evening to protest the mask mandate in place at NA and other districts across the region.

Audience+applause+and+take+a+stand+against+the+mandatory+mask+mandate.

Anthony Durzo

Audience applause and take a stand against the mandatory mask mandate.

By Anthony Durzo, North Allegheny Senior High School

It was all about freedom for the protesters who gathered at the “My Kid, My Choice” rally on Tuesday, August 24th in North Park. Many held signs for nearby drivers to view, while others spoke publicly about their beliefs on how mask mandates are doing more harm than good.  

“By requiring children to wear a mask, it is promoting the idea that the mask can prevent or treat a disease, which is in illegal, deceptive practice,” one spokesperson stated.

Parents, students, grandparents, and even former school board members from neighboring school districts who were in attendance last evening said they are fighting not just for North Allegheny but for all school districts nationwide to leave the masking choice up to the parents of students attending in-person instruction this school year. 

The rally came just one day after North Allegheny changed its COVID-19 precautions guidelines from mask-optional to mask-mandatory, following an order from a federal judge. 

“We have a free country,” protestor Peggy Ebuck said. “Science has not proved that masks work and my grandchildren have put these on all day.” 

One of the students who participated in the rally, NASH senior Bella Berger, said she is worried that similar struggles that occurred last year due to masks will become a reoccurrence.

“One of my teachers that I had all last year asked me my name this year when I came in without a mask,” Berger said. 

Harry Wynkoop, founder of the My Kid, My Choice program, demands the option to have his children mask up or not. (Anthony Durzo)

Multiple signs were displayed throughout the rally, touching upon the theme of American liberty and how mask mandates run counter to constitutional rights. 

“I never thought America would get like this, so I am very concerned,” protestor Bill Craig stated. 

Craig, a 1966 North Allegheny graduate who has grandchildren in the school district, said he is disgusted with the fact that his grandchildren and their peers are forced to mask up while in school for hours. He added, however, that he respects those who feel that masks are safe. 

“I believe it should be a choice,” Craig said. “I am not opposed to someone who decides to wear a mask if it makes them feel comfortable.”

The topic of students’ freewill was the common thread running through the multiple speeches made through a portable PA system at last evening’s rally.

“If you want to come after my rights, I will comply,” Victoria Klaus said to the group. “When you go after my child, it ends now.”

If you want to come after my rights, I will comply. When you go after my child, it ends now.”

— Victoria Klaus

Klaus, a mother of a sophomore at North Allegheny Intermediate High School, spoke to the audience about the 1918 flu pandemic. She touched upon the similarities between the mandates of the flu and COVID-19 pandemics, including mask-wearing, quarantines, and vaccinations. She ended her lecture with a study concluding that masks were the leading cause of the 40% death rate during the 1918 pandemic. 

Klaus then handed the microphone over to Harry Wynkoop, the founder of the “My Kid, My Choice” program and a resident of Avonworth.  

Wynkoop began his speech by thanking every protester for attending and taking a stance with him.

“You are standing on the right side of history,” Wynkoop said to the group. “Your courage, strength, and determination made this movement possible.”

Wynkoop emphasized that he is not anti-mask. Instead, he said, he is “pro-parent,” demanding the option to have his child mask up based upon his own parental intuition. He continued his speech by calling out school boards across the region that are mandating masks, stating that they are “afraid to come forward” against mask requirements and even calling for them to resign. 

“You (the boards of education) are too cowardly to say that everyone gets to make a choice, so come election time, you gotta go,” Wynkoop said to the group.

Signs demonstrating anger towards mask requirements in schools. (Anthony Durzo)

To follow his recommendation, Wynkoop announced that he will be running for Avonworth’s Board of Education the following school year. 

He then warned school districts that they have ten days to reverse their mask mandate before he and the followers of his program file a lawsuit against school districts and a subpoena against mask manufacturers. Wynkoop added that his program will organize a national walk-out from every school in the region that has refused to allow the option of mask-wearing.  

To conclude his speech, Wynkoop asked that all children who attended the rally stand before the crowd as they cheered them on in support of not wearing a mask in schools. 

“It takes one student to take off the mask, and everyone will start breathing,” Wynkoop said to the group.

Wynkoop informed the crowd that North Allegheny is not his last stop. His organization will be rallying outside other school districts, including Bethel Park, Shaler, and Baldwin, in the near future.  

This story was originally published on The Uproar on August 25, 2021.