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From left, Albany citizens Chris Donaldson, Stephen Brimberry and Tony Natoli display a sign opposing a proposed city ordinance requiring face coverings in public.

ALBANY – As Albany city commissioners gathered Thursday for what was expected to be a long afternoon of hearing citizens’ concerns on a proposed mandatory mask ordinance, individuals opposed to the ordinance gathered in front of the Dougherty County Courthouse to express their concerns.

Three among the citizens opposed to the ordinance — former Dougherty County Republican Party Chairman Stephen Brimberry, Chris Donaldson and Tony Natoli — displayed a banner that read “Say No Bo (a reference to Albany Mayor Bo Dorough) We Do Not Consent #FreedonOverFear.” The group said it planned to gather across the street at the Albany-Dougherty Government Center when the meeting started.

“This is a gathering as opposed to a protest,” Brimberry said. “I think a lot of people would be inside voicing their concerns with the mask ordinance if it weren’t for COVID. We don’t need this; 90 percent of people are doing it. A lot of retail stores, restaurants ... corporate America is doing it.

“Adding another ordinance that picks and chooses who gets a fine is not needed in this town. I’m for wearing masks, I just don’t need to be told to wear it in public spaces. Because that’s a lot of space here in Albany.”

The special called meeting was set to start at 2 p.m., and city officials reportedly gave citizens until noon to sign up to speak at the gathering. As of 11 a.m., 18 had reportedly signed up to speak at the virtual meeting. A person who joined those gathering at the Courthouse said Dorough, who voted with the 4-3 majority to enact the ordinance at Tuesday’s commission meeting, had invited eight African-American preachers who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting to again weigh in.

“That’s going to turn this into a circus,” the person, who asked that his name not be used in this article, said.

The board voted to pass the ordinance resolution Tuesday, but Ward IV Commissioner Chad Warbington, who voted against the matter, used a bit of parliamentary procedure to force a second vote. Dorough and Commissioners Jon Howard, Bob Langstaff and Demetrius Young voted for the measure, while Commissioners Warbington, Matt Fuller and B.J. Fletcher voted against. Warbington said since the measure had not gotten unanimous consent, it required a second reading and vote.

“I’m not against wearing a mask at all,” Natoli said while waiting for the meeting to start. “But it should not be mandated. I should have a choice.”

Carlton Fletcher contributed to this report.

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