Lewis County sheriff on video telling crowd, “don’t be a sheep” about wearing face masks

LEWIS COUNTY, Wash. — The video, shot by the Daily Chronicle newspaper is short. In it, Sheriff Robert Snaza addresses a small crowd through a bullhorn. “In case you guys didn’t hear, Governor Jay Inslee, in his infinite wisdom, had decided after over a hundred some-odd days that we should all wear face masks inside and out. Here’s what I say. Don’t be a sheep,” Snaza said to applause.

Afterward, he shook hands, no one wore a mask and there was no social distancing. On Wednesday, Snaza went into more detail about his statement.

“When I said don’t be a sheep it means you don’t have to be a follower, it’s OK to be a free thinker. It’s OK to ask questions. It’s OK to say why,” Snaza said in an interview in his office in Chehalis, where he wore a protective face mask.

Snaza said his comment wasn’t just about Inslee’s order to wear protective face masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus even when outside, if social distancing isn’t possible. He says it came after a wide-ranging conversation with the crowd that included discussion of the Hamilton Corner “Uncle Sam” sign just outside Chehalis that was recently the subject of an online petition to remove it and an attempt to burn it down, to the occupation of Capitol Hill in Seattle known as CHOP.

“And I just want them to know it’s OK to speak up, it’s OK to say how you feel, it’s OK to say you support the First Amendment, it’s OK to support the Second Amendment. It’s OK to say I don’t like what’s going on right now,” Snaza said. “Now I understand where he’s coming from. He saying science and data. But then to say outside in the environment every day when they’re just walking down the sidewalk? I kind of have disagreements with that.”

Snaza said one of his major concerns is enforcement. The governor’s order gives law enforcement the authority to act and issue citations to people if they defy the order and refuse to wear masks. Snaza says that can be difficult.

“We will investigate each complaint on a case-by-case basis and we will do all the education we can. But that’s as far as we’re going to go,” Snaza said.

At a news conference Wednesday, Governor Inslee was asked about the sheriff’s comments saying, “Those who wear face masks because it’s both the law and is safe, I just don’t agree with those calling those folks somehow barnyard animals.”

Lewis County entered Phase 3 of Inslee’s economic reopening less than a week ago.