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Local attorney arrested after removing his mask during Gainesville City Commission meeting

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

During the first business discussion item on the Gainesville City Commission’s agenda this afternoon, attorney Ray Washington came to the podium to give public comment on the item. After he had been speaking about a minute, Mayor Poe interrupted him, saying, “Mr. Washington, can you leave your mask on?” 

Washington replied, “I’m not going to put my mask on so I can be heard. I’m 6 feet away.”

Poe responded, “We can hear you.” 

Washington spoke over him: “Mr. Poe, you’re using my time. Please stop.” 

Poe again interrupted him: “I’ll give you…” 

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Washington firmly continued, “Please stop it. Now.” 

Poe then said, “Ok, I need to adjourn this meeting until we resolve this,” and the meeting was adjourned.

After the commissioners filed out, City Manager Lee Feldman approached Washington and said the rules require speakers to wear a mask. “You’re choosing not to wear a mask. If you don’t wear a mask while you’re speaking, you’re going to have to sit down.”

Washington said he wouldn’t sit down: “The standard is that I have to be disruptive, not wear a mask… We’re going to be testing this in court.”

The GPD officers at the meeting asked Washington to step outside, but he repeated that he was not being disruptive. The officers said Washington was trespassed, but he said he had not been trespassed. The officers appealed to Feldman, who said, “He is trespassed.” 

Washington continued to calmly refuse to leave and was handcuffed. While he was being handcuffed, he said he had become dizzy while wearing the mask. He was taken to the Alachua County Jail and was booked at 2:38 p.m. Washington will remain in jail until first appearance tomorrow morning.

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