Police had to physically remove a South Dakota man from a school board meeting Monday night because he refused to wear a mask. One of the primary topics of the meeting was public opposition to the district’s mask mandate, according to the Mitchell Republic.
The man who refused to wear a mask was Reed Bender, who had reportedly attended meetings in the past and spoken against mask mandates. Bender would not put on a mask even though the district offered to provide him one. When Bender wouldn’t comply, Superintendent Joe Graves called the police.
The Republic reported that Mitchell police officers arrived about 20 minutes later and attempted to speak with Bender to get him to wear a mask. Bender still refused, so the officers tried to physically remove him from the library where the meeting was being held.
Bender still wasn’t ready to go without a fight and began resisting officers as other attendees urged him not to resist the officers, for fear of how the encounter might escalate. At one point during Bender’s resistance, one officer pulled out his Taser, apparently on the verge of using it to subdue the uncooperative man.
“You’re not going to tase me in front of all these people,” Bender told the officer. “I want people to video this while their cops, of minority descent, have to do this to everybody.”
Bender resisted a bit more after that, but the officers were able to restrain him and escort him out.
Wild night at the Mitchell school board meeting
“Never in my entire career as a superintendent have I had that happen before,” Graves told the Republic. “The board said there is a masking mandate and everyone in the school building must wear a mask. We gave the gentleman fair warning of that and offered him a mask. He refused, so the board had to enforce the mandate.”
Bender was not arrested or charged with any crimes, but the Mitchell Police Division said the incident is still under investigation and a final decision has not yet been made.
Despite heavy public opposition in the district to the mask mandate, some school board members are steadfast on the matter.
“A survey wouldn’t change my mind, the medical professionals have recommended (masks), and my wife cares for and has treated several patients who have had COVID-19,” board member Kevin Kenkel said. “She has seen the long-term effects on people. Even if 75% said we don’t want masks, I would still vote in favor of masks.”