Police escort man from Sarasota school board meeting after mask rant

Coronavirus

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – A mask mandate caused a showdown in Sarasota Tuesday night.

Things got heated, and police were called in during a marathon school board meeting when a parent protested and refused to wear a mask.

Michael Zarzano says he wanted his voice heard. However, board members didn’t like what they heard.

“You cannot force me to breathe carbon dioxide, lady. I am to breathe oxygen,” Zarzano told the Sarasota County school board while standing at the podium provided for speakers. “I want to breathe oxygen. I can’t cover my mouth and my nose.”

Within seconds, Zarzano’s microphone was turned down, and his anger went up – fast.

“You have no authority to order a medical device on any citizen of this county, this state, or this country,” he said, as board members began filing out one by one.

Police surrounded Zarzano after board chairman, Jane Goodwin, ordered moments before, “Remove him.”

Zarzano continued his protest, all the way to the end as he walked out the door.

“You have been warned! You have been served,” Zarzano adding. “Tyranny in Sarasota County!”

The five-hour meeting, where dozens of parents spoke inside and protested outside, ended with a three to two decision to keep the mask mandate in place.

Board members Bridget Ziegler and Eric Robinson were the two votes against the policy.

Many parents tell 8 On Your Side they do not want their children forced to wear masks in the classroom. Their group, Concerned Parents of Sarasota Schools, has been vocal at recent meetings, worried about school board leadership.

“We’re moms, we’re dads, we’re grandparents, and we just want a choice and we’re not getting a choice,” said Ashley Cote, a founding member of the group.

Cote stayed for the entire meeting and, in the end, admitted she’s disappointed the board upheld the mandate.

“It’s a mask, it’s my child. It’s other’s people’s children. It’s not their children,” she told 8 On Your Side.

Parents say their fight is far from over.

A group has already filed paperwork, they say, to sue the school board over the mask mandate.

They plan to have what they describe as a “parent presser” on Sunday, Nov. 1 where they say no topic is off-limits, and they plan to “speak freely.”

“We won’t give up,” said Cote. “These are our children, not theirs.”

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