A small group of protesters gathered in front of the Defiance County Courthouse in downtown Defiance for a second straight evening Thursday to voice displeasure about school mask mandates.

Approximately 20 protesters, some of them carrying signs and American flags, were gathered around 6:45 p.m. Thursday on the sidewalk at the corner of Clinton and Second streets. The protests were held from 6-8 p.m. each day.

Some passing vehicles honked horns as they drove by while at least one driver appeared to yell something in disapproval of the protesters’ beliefs.

Those were well defined.

Ashley Verhoff, who has three children enrolled in Ayersville Local Schools, which has a student mask mandate, believes the decision should be left up to parents.

“We feel it’s parents’ choice,” she said. “Most of the Defiance County schools have left it up to parents, and we feel that they did good by the parents, and we want our schools to do the same for us.

“... It should be our choice,” Verhoff added. “We understand that they are keeping our kids for five hours a day and stuff, but it’s still our choice as parents. It’s not their choice, they are not the parents, and that’s the message we are trying to bring. We the parents decide what is best for our own children.”

Local resident Samuel McGuire, carrying an American flag and wearing a shirt supporting Joe Blystone in the 2022 Republican primary for governor, expressed similar concerns.

“The main reason I’m out here, and I think a lot of other people are, is it’s a local problem,” said McGuire, who does not have children in school. “It’s a political problem up and down the board. We can’t just blame it on the federal government anymore, we can’t just blame it on the state government. We have problems in the local government that are terrible.”

He is critical of state legislators who passed Senate Bill 22, not for restricting the governor in unilateral action during a pandemic, but for not foreseeing the mask issue in schools.

“... we’re out here protesting because I want to see our county commissioners, our state representative and our mayor to come out and say something and stand up for these children ...,” said McGuire.

He questions the science prompting mask usage, noting that “coronavirus is so small that the virus will go through the mask. So, where’s the benefit there?”

Too, he says those wearing masks every day are “going to be more tired and could develop health problems throughout years of wearing it.”

Defiance resident Deb Ryan, who has grandchildren in the Columbus area, also showed up to protest Thursday, speaking more generally about mask mandates.

She said she and another person attended a Defiance City Schools Board of Education meeting recently, but left after declining to wear masks.

“First of all, these mandates are not law, so I’m not breaking a law by not wearing a mask,” said Ryan. “It should be my choice. I think that’s the whole thing right now. Even if we agree or disagree to wear a mask, it should be our choice. What happened to America? Freedom? Freedom equals choice. What happened to choice? It’s gone, and I think that’s the thing I’m probably fighting the most.

“And the same with the vaccine,” she added. “If you want to go ahead and get vaccinated, go ahead, but it should not threaten my job and it should not threaten my livelihood, it should not threaten where I go to eat, where I go to shop. It’s a choice. The last time I looked it was unconstitutional to have these mandates.”

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