Erik Richards tortured the City of Springfield’s public information office because of his intense hate for the city’s masking mandate.
“It is not exaggerating for me to say that I would go to bed each night over the past nine months after reading angry messages from Erik and wake up to them again the next morning,” Springfield public information director Cora Scott said.
Then came the death of a man who had spent his life trying to make the city better: former Councilman Tommy Bieker. Bieker, who recently lost his battle with leukemia, has reached out to Scott about six months before his death to advocate for the wearing of masks. Bieker was a staunch conservative, but felt the masking issue was not a partisan issue, and wanted to show how someone could support conservative values and still advocate for wearing masks.
Before Bieker could find a time to meet with Scott and city staff to record a public service announcement, his medical condition degraded and he was unable to do it.
But before he passed, he sent a note to Scott asking her to share his “last wish” for the city:
” 1) I ask everyone to #maskup417 and 2) love each other, it’s the little things that count and finally, 3) we are literally the best community ever and you are what makes it great,” Bieker wrote.
Richards had gone to high school with Bieker, and the loss of someone at the young age of 40 resonated deeply with him. He saw a news report of Bieker’s death and his final request, and decided that there was no better way to honor Bieker than to wear a mask even he didn’t like it.
He still doesn’t like masks, and doesn’t like mandates, but he’s going to wear one in honor of Bieker.
“Let me be very clear. I still and always will say I do NOT like mandates,” Richards wrote on Facebook. “I will ALWAYS stand firm on that. I still do NOT like masks. I am NOT sure 100% if they work or not. IF they do GREAT. I agreed to put my disagreement with the mask and try it out for 100 days to honor a man that passed away that I actually respected. I still have my beliefs that I am passionate about.”
The change in his position has resulted in some of the anger and hate being directed at Richards, who’s been called a “sellout” or “sheep” or worse. Richards understands their feelings because that’s what he once felt, but now he’s standing up to that bullying as strongly as he stood with the anti-mask contingent for months.
“I can say this because I did it,” Richards wrote. “They will come up with ANY excuse to try and make themselves believe what they are saying is right. To those “Republicans” that think that you are STUPID. You know who you are. I will NOT say names out loud. The mask is NOT causing you to lose your rights and freedom and also the vaccine does NOT have some “chip” in it. Those are just rhetoric BS that stupid people come up with to try and NOT do something.”
Richards even freely admits he was “being stupid.”
“I was being stupid,” Richards said. “Had I NOT seen that story of my late classmate I would have continued being stupid like the rest of the idiots. I can admit when I am wrong. Can you? Most people do NOT like to admit they could be wrong. They will go to end of the earth to defend how wrong they are and try and make it seem they are right in their head. They are closed minded morons. It is stupid.”
Richards is now asking citizens to wear a mask in honor of Bieker with a #MaskUpForTommy campaign that includes the city’s recent 100-day mask challenge.
“I challenge YOU to a 100 days to mask up,” Richards posted on Facebook. “ONLY 100 days folks. It is NOT that bad. Tell yourself I am an AMERICAN not just a Republican or a Democrat. Tell yourself that you are a PROUD AMERICAN and YOU want to unite as ONE. We did it once on 9/11 why can’t we do it NOW? So with that being said. I have 3 words for you. ARE YOU READY?”
(headline photo is the photo Richards posted to Facebook announcing he was going to wear a mask and challenged others to do so)