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Bad reactions: AP finds US civility plunging over COVID restrictions

A man dressed as Uncle Sam protests recent mandates requiring COVID-19 vaccines in New York’s Central Park before the “We Love NYC: The Homecoming Concert,” Aug. 21, 2021. We Love NYC, The Homecoming Concert celebrates its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic despite surging cases and hospitalizations due to the delta variant. (AP Photo / Jeenah Moon)

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AP reporters Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, Honolulu; Olga Rodriguez, San Francisco; Terry Tang, Phoenix; and Heather Hollingsworth, Kansas City, Missouri, harnessed AP’s national reach to report on the fast-declining civility over mask requirements and pandemic precautions.

An Alabama man drove to Missouri to serve citizen arrest papers on a hospital administrator over his insistence that people get vaccinated. Protesters beamed strobe lights into the condo building of Hawaii’s lieutenant governor and blanketed his neighborhood with anti-semitic posters to protest new restrictions amid a record surge in hospitalizations. A California parent punched a teacher in the face over mask requirements and county commissioners in Kansas were compared to the Taliban and Nazis at a mask meeting that went off the rails.

With these examples rising to the surface, the reporting team assembled a smart, authoritative piece on how public discourse in America has plunged to new depths. The story led member sites, made newspaper front pages in 10 different states and was among the most-read stories on AP News over the weekend. AP Deputy Managing Editor Noreen Gillespie called it a shining example of illustrating “how a theme is rippling across the country.”

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People hold signs against vaccine passports as they participate at the “S.O.S California No Vaccine Passport Rally” at Tongva Park in Santa Monica, Calif., Aug. 21, 2021. – AP Photo / Damian Dovarganes
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