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As Boise hands out face masks for Mayor McLean's health order, protesters say it encroaches on their freedom

Boise city employees handed out over 6,000 free masks to about 900 families. Meanwhile, Health Freedom Idaho protested the city-wide mask mandate.

BOISE, Idaho — Wearing a mask has become a fiery debate across the country - and now that debate has extended to Boise, after Mayor Lauren McLean announced the city-wide mask mandate that takes effect Friday, July 4 at 12:01 a.m.

To prepare for the mandate, the City of Boise handed out over 6,000 free masks on Friday morning to approximately 900 households at City Hall West and the Boise Depot.

"We are requiring that everyone wear a mask," said Boise City Council President Elaine Clegg. "We know that some people probably don't have them yet or some can't afford to get them, so we want to make sure that everyone can have access to them."

While the city combats the ongoing pandemic, Health Freedom Idaho led a group of approximately 100 protesters at Boise City Hall. The protesters are against the city-wide mask mandate and burned masks to demonstrate their disapproval of the mayor's order.

"It's symbolic just like when they burned the bras," Pam Hamphill said. "To say no to government control."

MORE: Boise mayor signs health order requiring face masks in public

"If you feel that you need to wear (a mask) to stay healthy, then wear one," April Larson said at the protest. "If anything I'm putting myself at risk."

"We should we be able to choose whether or not we wear a mask in public," Richard Reed added. "There is science showing that these masks don't do anything."

Boise City Council President Elaine Clegg said otherwise.

"The research has begun to show that it really turns out that if everyone is masked up, we will have a much lower transmission of the disease," she said. "The evidence shows that if everyone does it, everyone is safe, so making it voluntary doesn't hit that mark."

The mandatory mask order requires people in Boise to wear masks indoors and outdoors where social distancing is not possible, and the masks must cover your mouth, according to the city. The order states the city's first step will be to educate others about the order, but also says that failing to comply could result in a misdemeanor.

"Please do this, protect yourself, protect our economy," Clegg said.

Exceptions to the order include children under 5 years old, on-duty first-responders, and those with communication or health concerns.

"I'm afraid where this country is headed if we just all roll over and abide by control that goes against our constitutional rights," April Larson said. "Independent and free - that's what this nation is founded under, and I'm just fighting for that freedom."

RELATED: 'We’ve been pushing for something like this': Downtown Boise business owners react to mask requirement

RELATED: 'We may mandate it': Idaho governor talks about masks on weekly AARP telephone town hall

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