Springfield, IL - A group of about 150 people gathered outside the Illinois Capitol Complex Saturday for the "Million Unmasked March." The group of parents and guardians argue their children shouldn't be forced to wear masks to attend school this fall.
An organizer of the event said Americans have the right to choice and children shouldn't be "tortured" with masks.
"This is a free country. If I don't want to live in Illinois, I can move," said Michael Rebresh. "But no state owns my child. I'm not an indentured servant to the state. They don't get to tell me what to do."
Many people held signs stating "My Child, My Choice" and "By Choice, Not Force." Meanwhile, a local high school student was one of several people standing across the street with signs calling for masks to save the lives of children and teachers.
"They can choose to send their kids to remote learning. They can choose to learn from home if they don't want their kids wearing masks," Trevor Good said. "But, as for us, children who are going back to school, I would feel most safe if a mask mandate was in order."
A man standing near Good held a sign stating "Keep room in your yearbooks for the 'In Memoriam' pages."
Rebresh told the crowd Gov. JB Pritzker is "Public Enemy #1," since Pritzker recently said people refusing to wear masks are the enemy in the fight against COVID-19.
"I'm a taxpaying citizen of this state. I can't fathom why he would use words like that, and it was a poor choice on his part. He's acting like a child and a bully," Rebresh exclaimed.
However, Rebresh yelled at the anti-protesters during his speech at the start of the event.
"I believe the speaker at one point said 'shame on you' and 'get that kid out of here,' which is interesting since I'm one of the children they're trying to protest for," Good said.
"You know what I'm doing? I'm teaching my children that no, you're not going to die from COVID-19. You might get sick," Rebresh said. "Everybody might get sick, but there's a 99.6% recovery rate with this virus."
The organizer also spit on Capitol Bureau Chief Mike Miletich before starting the interview. He jokingly asked if he could wipe the spit off the reporter's N95 mask with a sweaty rag, but Miletich refused. Rebresh said it was an accident.
Rep. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia) told the group they need to believe in freedom over fear.
"Start standing up for your freedom, or else we are going to lose it," Bailey said. "We cannot afford that."
Only one rally participant wore a mask. However, it didn't cover his mouth or nose. The event ended with a march to the Illinois State Board of Education building.
"If there's an outbreak traced here, we know who it was," Good explained. "Hopefully people will realize masks are the safest choice. Social distancing is the safest choice."