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‘Pull ya mask up’: Exchange between Baltimore mayor and activist gets national attention, inspires a remix

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott pauses his press conference during an exchange of words with local activist Duane “Shorty” Davis about pulling up his mask.

By now, it’s the subject of a TMZ story, a city health department advertisement and even a musical remix.

“Shorty, pull ya mask up,” Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said at a news conference Tuesday about COVID-19 regulations, during an exchange that has since caught the attention of thousands on Twitter and beyond.

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Despite what some from out of town thought, he wasn’t using shorty as a general nickname — he was talking to Duane “Shorty” Davis, a provocative Baltimore activist.

Davis is well known in local circles for appearing at news conferences and other events to interrupt and catch the attention of politicians. But he’s also known for his efforts to feed the homeless in Baltimore, his barbecue grill in tow, and for raising awareness about corruption and mass incarceration.

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And there was the time his art display outside a county government building — a toilet — was confused for a bomb threat.

But it was Scott who made headlines this time — largely for his casual, direct tone about mask-wearing restrictions.

“People are dyin’, Shorty,” Scott said as Davis shouted. Davis was in the middle of his own live broadcast on social media, where his mask could be seen hanging around his chin.

“People need to hear this information because they dyin’,” Scott said.

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In a message to a reporter, Davis said he came to the news conference to “publicly confront him to deal with the corruption in Baltimore.”

Scott said he was surprised to emerge from Zoom meetings after his news conference to find that his conversation with Davis had “gone viral.”

The mayor said he didn’t think much of the interaction, and didn’t think a national audience would either.

“This was simply about me telling someone — literally — telling someone that I care about, calling them by their name and telling him to pull up his mask,” Scott said in an interview Wednesday.

But the video’s spread has also presented a “silver lining,” Scott said.

“In going viral, you now have millions of people that have been shared important information that the world needs to hear, right?” he said. “Because we know people are not wearing their mask the right way. They have it on their neck, they’re hanging it down and hanging it below their nose.”

Baltimore’s response to the exchange has also been fun to watch, Scott said.

“The best part about it for me has been the way Baltimore Twitter, Instagram, social media — in particular Black Baltimore social media — has turned it into — they’ve made clubs songs to it, which I think is a great thing.”

Scott said he’s also seen T-shirts, hoodies and face masks crop up with this new slogan of sorts, and he’s happy Baltimoreans might be able to make a profit from the conversation. He’s said he’s hopeful that maybe Davis can, too.

During the news conference, Scott was delivering information about the city’s vaccination efforts and COVID-19 restrictions. About four weeks ago, Scott imposed a ban on both indoor and outdoor dining in hopes of slowing the spread of the illness. It remains in place.

In the hours since his exchange, Scott has started a #pullyamaskup hashtag, and the slogan was featured in a Baltimore City health campaign.

And, of course, it’s been turned into a remix by local DJ Supa DJ Big L.

“As long as the message gets out, that’s all that I care about,” Scott said.

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