Masks burn as Milwaukee mandate ends

After more than 10 months, Milwaukee's mask mandate officially ended June 1 – a change met with both hesitancy and excitement, some going as far as burning their masks.

"I guess I’m glad it’s over," said Shirley Zinda.

Near 37th and Becher, outside McKiernan's Irish Pub, a crowd celebrated the end of Milwaukee's mask mandate Tuesday.

"You know what this thing is? A symbol of subjugation," said David Clarke, former Milwaukee County sheriff. "Surrender to the government."

Clarke spoke at the event hosted by retired Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan and the Wisconsin Conservative Digest. Its focal point was a metal trash bin where those in attendance could set fire to their masks.

"I’m looking at this as the turning of a corner in Milwaukee. While other states and other counties have lifted these restrictions many months ago… why it took as long as it did in Milwaukee? I don't know," said Donovan.

Donovan believes to wear or not to wear a mask should be up to each individual or business.

"And I have absolutely no problem with a private business if that’s their policy, absolutely none, and I have no problem with anyone if they feel more comfortable wearing a mask," said Donovan.

Milwaukee's Lucy Marchese agrees.

"It’s been like hell," she said. "I hate the fact that I wasn’t able to take the mask off. I felt deprived of my rights, my freedom."

In the meantime, at City Hall, Mayor Tom Barrett and County Executive David Crowley urged Milwaukeeans to proceed with caution.

"Now, we're in a new phase of recovery from the pandemic," said Mayor Barrett.

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"It’s easy, I will say, to let our guards down and completely resume life as it was before COVID, but we can’t get too far ahead of ourselves," said Crowley. "COVID is still present in our community, and this virus is still a deeply imminent threat to all of us."

Masks are still mandated inside Milwaukee City Hall and in other government buildings. Throughout the city, FOX6 News has heard a mix from business owners – some that plan to keep their mask requirements in place and others that have removed those requirements beginning June 1.

MCTS buses still require passengers to wear masks. Likewise, masks are still required on airplanes.