A 22-year-old man was taken into police custody this week after scaling more than 60 floors of the Aria Resort and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip to protest Nevada’s COVID-19 mask mandate.
Maison Des Champs of Las Vegas said he climbed the 600-foot hotel tower on Tuesday to honor his grandfather, who committed suicide last year during the pandemic, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
Des Champs is planning another protest at 8 am on Aug. 14 outside Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino on the east side of the Strip. This protest is expected to be conducted on the ground and not involve any urban climbing. Planet Hollywood is not far from the Aria, but is on the opposite side of the resort corridor.
Des Champs said he doesn’t expect everyone to agree with what he is doing.
“COVID is dangerous, and masks aren’t that big of a deal, but it’s what they stand for: a loss of freedom and personal choice,” he said.
The climb at the Aria on Tuesday began about 5:30 am. About 30 minutes later, someone in what appeared to be an office inside the tower spotted Des Champs when he had about 30 feet to go, he told the newspaper.
Police were waiting for Des Champs at the top of the tower. He was booked on misdemeanor counts of trespassing not amounting to burglary and disorderly conduct, the newspaper reported. He was released by noon on Tuesday.
Dori Koren, a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department captain, tweeted a TikTok video of Des Champs climbing the Aria tower. Koren frequently tweets unlawful activity on the Strip.
“Yesterday, our officers faced another unique challenge, this time being an urban climber ascending 60+ floors,” Koren tweeted. “This reckless act is extremely dangerous and very illegal. That’s why our team was ready to rescue and arrest the suspect.”
Des Champs told the newspaper he knew he would be arrested, but took the risk “because this is important to me.”
“Wearing a mask, staying at home, those are choices that each person should be allowed to make,” he said.
Nevada Mask Policy
Last week, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) announced that face coverings would be required in indoor public spaces in 12 of Nevada’s 17 counties that have high COVID-19 transmission rates. This was done in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The mask mandate, which began Friday, includes casinos and applies to people whether they are vaccinated or not. Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, is among the 12 counties with a high transmission rate.
Officials in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Hawaii have cautioned against traveling to Las Vegas because of its rising infections and low vaccination rate.
In Nevada, more than 361,000 people have been infected with the coronavirus, according to statistics compiled by the New York Times. Sisolak and Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman are among other high-profile Nevadans who have had COVID-19. Across the state, 5,953 people have died from the virus.
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