Police: Man arrested after refusing to wear mask during Chariho School Committee meeting

South County

CHARIHO, R.I. (WPRI) — A Richmond man was arrested Tuesday night for allegedly refusing to wear a mask at a Chariho School Committee meeting, according to Richmond Police Chief Elwood Johnson.

Jeremy Palmer, 37, entered the meeting being held in the high school library without a mask, which is in violation of the district’s regulations, Johnson said. He then began to argue the validity of the mask mandate with a detail officer before leaving the campus.

Palmer returned around 7 p.m., as the public forum started, without a mask and was handed a copy of Gov. Dan McKee’s executive order and the Chariho School District regulations, according to Johnson.

He acknowledged the documents, put on a mask that was provided for him, and sat in the audience, Johnson said, before almost immediately pulling the mask down below his chin.

The school committee then made an announcement asking everyone to wear their masks and Palmer continued to refuse the request, according to the chief.

Cpl. Daniel Kelley, who was asked to respond to the school in the event of a future disruption, asked Palmer to wear his mask multiple times and he refused each time. Johnson said Kelley told Palmer to wear the mask or leave, to which Palmer asked whether he would be arrested if he didn’t leave.

“Cpl. Kelley told him that if he didn’t wear his mask or leave the assembly he would be arrested. Mr. Palmer stated, ‘then arrest me.’ Mr. Palmer calmly stood up and placed his hands behind his back when asked,” Johnson told 12 News.

Palmer was charged with disturbance of public assemblies. He was processed at the station and released with a summons to appear in 4th District Court for arraignment at a later date.

Johnson said 30 to 40 other meeting attendees were all wearing masks as currently required in school buildings.

“In this instance, Mr. Palmer chose to be arrested over two other options,” Johnson said. “This was a ‘hybrid’ meeting which was offered both in-person and virtually online.”

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