“Maybe people should stay and fight and take back the schools, which belong to us. They’re ours.”
So said Tucker Carlson to millions of viewers on Tuesday night. It was the latest installment of the Fox News host’s months-long crusade against school mask mandates, one that has included multiple calls for concerned Americans to take action against the “lunatics” requiring children to wear facial coverings in the classroom.
Regardless of whether they’ve been directly inspired by Carlson’s relentless demonization of measures to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 and those who enforce them, anti-vaxxers are very much taking action. Yes, they’ve been raising wild-eyed hell at school board meetings, but an increasing number of them are now taking the fight to the schools themselves, just as Carlson suggested.
The offenders include violent extremist groups like the Proud Boys — who in September tried to gain access to the grounds of a school in Vancouver, Washington, during an anti-mask protest, resulting in a lockdown — as well as coalitions of sign-wielding activists, like the one that harassed parents and their children en route to an elementary school in Beverly Hills, California on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after Carlson urged the need for direct action.
A group of anti-vaccine/anti-vaccine mandate activists protested at Walk to School Day in Beverly Hills today. Protesters followed Mayor Bob Wunderlich from the civic center to Hawthorne Elementary School, engaging in heated exchanges with parents. pic.twitter.com/UjWMz6dtY9
— Samuel Braslow (@SamBraslow) October 6, 2021
The woman in red harassing the mother who walks hand-in-hand with her child is Shiva Bagheri, founder of Beverly Hills Freedom Rally, a group that bills itself as the “nexus for citizens committed to liberty and civic participation.”
“You should choose what goes on your child’s face and in your child’s body,” Bagheri said outside of the school on Wednesday. “This is rape. This rape. They’re trying to rape our children with this poison. They’re going to rape their lives away.”
Just days before the march in Los Angeles, activists in New York took their anger directly to schoolchildren. Curtis Orwell of the anti-vaxx group NYC Freedom Fighters posted a video last week of himself and at least one other protester harassing young students through a fence. “Children, take your mask off. Breathe fresh oxygen,” Orwell says in the video. “It’s not natural. It’s not normal. Children, we need to see full faces. Take your mask off. Take it off. Take it off.”
Orwell and the other protester continued to badger schoolchildren congregated outside until two adults approached from the other side of the fence to film them. Orwell called one of them a pedophile, and both he and the other protester yelled that putting masks on children is “child abuse.”
The idea that putting masks on children constitutes “child abuse” is a catchy bit of messaging that is liable to resonate with concerned parents. Where did the idea originate? It’s hard to say, but it was certainly pushed into the mainstream by — you guessed it — Tucker Carlson.
“Your response when you see children wearing masks as they play should be no different from your response to seeing someone beat a kid in Walmart,” he said back in April. “Call the police immediately, contact child protective services. Keep calling until someone arrives. What you’re looking at is abuse, it’s child abuse and you are morally obligated to attempt to prevent it.”