County declares public health crisis over COVID misinformation, enraging protesters


Ricardo Torres-Cortez

Clark County Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, center, talks to a man who had refused to keep his mask on during a commission meeting at the Clark County Government Center Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021.

Tue, Sep 21, 2021 (6:50 p.m.)

For the Clark County Commission, a resolution declaring misinformation on the COVID-19 vaccines a “public health crisis” is simply a statement of their position with no enforcement capabilities.

“It’s not an ordinance that enacts a punishment for people who feel differently or speak differently than the board’s message today,” a commission lawyer told the room. 

It wasn’t clear if that’s how protesters, who showed up to speak against the item before it was introduced, initially interpreted it. After all, the agenda only said lawmakers were going to “discuss approving a resolution declaring health misinformation a public health crisis; and take any action deemed appropriate.”

For some, that language suggested an infringement of their First Amendment rights, a slippery slope for a “tyrannical” and “communist” government that wants to harm, even “kill,” its citizens via inoculation, they said during public comment. 

At the end of a lengthy public comment and short discussion, agenda item 96 passed 5 to 2. Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick and Commissioner Jim Gibson voted against the resolution. 

“For me the difficulty is what we saw here today ... people worrying about whether or not they’ll have the right to speak, to dissent, to express opinion, to get into even a real significant public discourse or an argument,” Gibson said. “When we have to tell them that those rights are not impaired by something we’re doing ... we’ve almost already lost the battle.” 

Ironically, speakers spread misinformation on the vaccine during public comment, with one woman telling Kirkpatrick that if she put her “paper” mask in boiling water, insect-like animals would crawl out. The 62-year-old woman went on to compare COVID-19 mitigation mandates to the plight of the Jewish people during WWII.  

Another woman spoke about the board’s “unconstitutional” actions that “will (ultimately) lead to rebellion or revolution, and possibly the next world war on the land of the Las Vegas Valley.”

“Now, please tell me, is that what you want?” she asked the commissioners, who aren’t allowed to respond. “Bloodshed? Bloodshed on the streets of Las Vegas.”

Protesters had to wait a few hours before the item even came up. 

During a five-minute recess, a man with a Halloween-costume-style mask refused to put it back on, saying he wanted to drink his coffee in peace, but taking his time to the amusement of officers around him. 

Kirkpatrick stepped in to talk to him, which seemed to encourage others in the crowd to take their masks off and shout chants, such as “commies” and “resign.”

The room was then ordered cleared. A confrontation ensued when officers physically removed Mack Miller, a regular at public meetings and lieutenant governor candidate. He ended up on the hallway floor. 

Another protester said officers had “body slammed” him, but video of the incident, which later emerged online, showed officers pushing him through a metal detector, nearly knocking it over as he smashed into it. A woman, in tears, apparently called 911 to report an “assault.” 

After lying on the floor for a few moments, Miller crawled outside, where protesters told the officers, among expletives, that they had to choose which side of history they wanted to be on. 

When protesters were allowed back inside, calm was restored as commissioners heard and watched presentations on redevelopment and asked questions. The once-unruly crowd cheered and clapped respectfully when the commissioners honored community members, including a philanthropist and student-athletes. 

Before voting no, Kirkpatrick said she wished the discussions weren’t so personal and she hoped respectful dialogue could return to the U.S. and the Las Vegas Valley. “But now we’re just angry on both sides — we’re angry all the way around.

“I'm struggling with this, because I think people should have their voice," she said, "they should be able to say it.”

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