Gov. Janet Mills on Tuesday admonished Vice President Mike Pence a day after he headlined an outdoor campaign rally in Hermon where a large crowd violated state gathering limits amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Pence reassured the Democratic governor during a conference call a few weeks ago between state governors and the members of the president’s coronavirus task force, which Pence chairs, that the Trump administration strongly encourages people to wear masks and maintain social distancing, Mills said.
“I was disappointed because from what I heard, he did not heed his own advice [at the rally]”, Mills said during a Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention press conference on Tuesday.
When asked about the crowd limit and the rally lacking many coronavirus precautions, Pence responded, “Well, first, we recognize the American people have a Constitutional right to peaceably assemble,” WMTW reported.
Maine limits outdoor crowds to 100 people. An organizer of the Hermon event said on Tuesday that 800 people were present when Pence started speaking on Tuesday, though hundreds more appeared to trickle in during his speech. Many huddled together and were not wearing masks.
Jason Savage, the Maine Republican Party’s executive director, said that the rally drew 1,500 to 2,000 and he scoffed at the Democratic governor’s comments, referring to protests held this summer in response to police violence against minorities.
“I guess we’ll have to call it a ‘peaceful protest.’ Gov. Mills and her pals should be fine then,” he said in an email. While those protests were held in violation of gathering limits, protesters generally wore masks at the many summer protests in Portland.
Mills advised Pence rally attendees to self-isolate or get tested for the coronavirus. Her administration has warned everyone, including protesters in Portland, to follow coronavirus guidelines, she said.
“They probably have been exposed to any number of people who have been carrying the virus, which is too bad,” Mills said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.