Police in Moscow, Idaho, arrested three participants in a church-sponsored outdoor singing event Wednesday for violating the city's order on masks and social distancing.
The order, instituted in July, requires that in public, whether indoors or out, people must maintain social distancing of six feet or wear a face mask. Moscow City Council recently extended the order to January 5.
The event, called a "Psalm Sing" was organized by Christ Church and took place in the parking lot outside city hall. More than 150 people participated. In addition to the three people arrested for violating the order, two were arrested and charged with resisting and obstructing an officer. All five people were cited for violating the city order.
This is the first time the city has issued citations for violations of the order, Moscow-Pullman Daily News reports. Police Chief James Fry said the department has been lenient about the order and tried to work with gatherings to avoid arrests, "but at some point in time you have to enforce."
One of the people arrested was Gabriel Rench, a Republican who is running for a seat on the county commission. He also co-hosts a local talk show, CrossPolitic.
"You guys should not be doing this," he told officers as they led him away from the gathering. "Doing this kind of crap for the mayor, this is embarrassing."
"You guys are stronger than this," he said to the police officers.
Rench and his co-hosts addressed the matter on their show.
Christ Church regularly hosts singing events in public areas of town. A pastor who organized Wednesday's event, Ben Zorne, said the gathering was intended partly as a public statement.
"We wanted to make a statement we're ready to head back to normal," he said.
He also referred to the city's mask and social distancing order as "largely groundless."