A group of about 50 parents and other adults gathered this morning outside Wilson High in Long Beach where they urged students to defy school rules by refusing to wear their masks.

Teenagers on their way to class passed through the group, some of whom told kids “we love your smile” or “take your diapers off; you’re in high school.”

When one student responded with “get the [expletive] away from my school,” a protester yelled back, “We love you; we’re trying to empower you.”

The protest early Wednesday morning came on the heels of a student refusing to wear a mask in class—something his parents say ended in a two-day suspension.

On Tuesday, 16-year-old Wyatt Mitchell filmed himself in class as an administrator repeatedly told him to come to the office where he’d be suspended for being defiant.

Wyatt’s parents, who attended the protest, said Wyatt had been refusing to wear a mask at school in days prior and he had been allowed to sit in the back of class away from other students. However, he was then warned he’d be suspended if he continued to do so.

“It’s inconvenient, it’s humiliating and uncomfortable,” Wyatt’s father, Matthew Mitchell, said about mask-wearing. He also pointed to what he viewed as the hypocrisy of Gov. Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who were recently shown in photos without masks at SoFi Stadium during an NFL playoff game.

Matthew Mitchell and Wyatt’s stepmother said he came to the decision to defy the mask mandate on his own, but the stand aligns with their views.

“If the students say no, this will all go away,” Matthew Mitchell said of his son’s motivations.

After Wyatt’s video began to spread on Instagram, a local group that’s vocally opposed mask and vaccine mandates, Long Beach Parents United, contacted the family about organizing a protest, Matthew Mitchell said.

About 50 protesters gathered outside Wilson High School on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, after a student was suspended for refusing to wear a mask. Photo by Jeremiah Dobruck.

Matthew Mitchell said his son defied the mask mandate in part because he felt isolated and discriminated against due to his decision to forgo getting vaccinated.

The family believes Wyatt may have suffered a vaccine injury in middle school. Although doctors were unable to determine a cause, Wyatt suffered seizures, numbness and severe vomiting around the time he received a vaccine, according to his father.

Vaccines, including the coronavirus vaccines, have been shown to be overwhelmingly safe and effective. Vaccine injuries are extremely rare.

Nevertheless, “We want to be careful,” Matthew Mitchell said.

Other parents and students were frustrated that political views were being forced on children outside their school.

“I’m pissed,” said Juan Rojas Contreras, who dropped off his daughter and then called police to make sure they’d keep the protesters off school property.

Students at Wilson High School look on as protesters urge them to ditch their masks before going inside on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022. Photo by Jeremiah Dobruck.

Nearby, a pair of sophomore girls watched. Stella Rivera said she thought it was inappropriate for parents to be “yelling at 15-year-olds,” trying to go to class. “We’re just here to learn,” Olivia Ramalho said.

Another parent flipped off the protesters as she walked away. Andrea, who declined to give her last name, said she’s a nurse, and her frustration boiled over at the idea that she might have to “take care of people like this” after working long, exhausting hours during the pandemic.

She called the protest “frustrating” and “ridiculous,” but maintained hope that someday the people gathered will understand they’re prolonging the problem.

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Jeremiah Dobruck is managing editor of the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @jeremiahdobruck on Twitter.