Amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, the store chain Costco is among the companies that have instituted demands for those on the premises to wear face masks. (Vice President Mike Pence infamously flouted a similar policy when he recently visited Mayo Clinic, although after criticism, he admitted that he should have worn a mask.) In recent days, a shopper whose name is not immediately clear started filming on his phone and tried to get into an attempted verbal altercation over the masks with a Costco employee and apparent manager Tison. The Costco employee promptly responded by, right there, on the angry shopper’s video, calmly reiterating the store’s policy and then taking the shopper’s cart back into the store and insisting that he leave after the customer started ranting yet again.
This is my husband at the end of 8 straight hrs of caring for COVID19 patients. I don’t want to hear about how you “can’t breathe” in @Costco for 20 min because they want you to wear a paper mask so their employees don’t end up in his ER in 2 wks. Show a little fucking respect. pic.twitter.com/D0IP5SNiSO
— Dr. Emily Porter, M.D. (@dremilyportermd) May 17, 2020
The shopper suggested on the video that the mask policy was some kind of conspiracy against his rights. In fact, he claimed that he is not a “fucking sheep” and “woke up in a free country” so should therefore be apparently exempt from the mask policy. In fact, the shopper’s arguments were ludicrous — a simple demand for individuals to wear a mask to stop the spread of a disease that has killed tens of thousands of Americans is not a conspiracy against, uh, free Americans or whatever.
A man has been charged with attempted murder for allegedly shooting a Waffle House employee in Colorado one night after being asked to wear a face covering inside the restaurant. https://t.co/xO5GM20OnB
— KREX 5/Fox 4 (@KREX5_Fox4) May 20, 2020
But the shopper didn’t exactly seem attached to levelheaded behavior in the first place. On the video, he can be heard trying to intimidate the Costco employee into letting him shop without a mask in light of the supposed “3,000 followers” to whom the shopper would reveal details of his supposedly terrible time at the store. Tison didn’t care.
— ONLY iN LVNV ➐ (@OnlyInLVNV) May 18, 2020
Other interactions at establishments that have demanded masks for their patrons have gone a lot worse. There have been at least two documented shootings that have been connected to anger over the simple request to put on a mask. At a Family Dollar store in Michigan, a security guard was shot and killed after he asked someone to put on a mask, and in Colorado late last week, a man shot a Waffle House employee who’d asked him to wear a mask. That shooter was arrested “on suspicion of attempted murder,” NBC explains.
Here we go! #Costco meltdowns, unhappy diners deliberately coughing in manager's face and now, a #WaffleHouse shooting. Open or closed. I'm staying home until everyone gets their shit together. https://t.co/w4uzHFYGlr
— Jocelyn Beard (@Jocelynbeard) May 20, 2020
President Donald Trump himself has frequently encouraged resistance to the public health measures enacted against the Coronavirus. In mid-April, he tweeted that his followers should “LIBERATE!” states including Michigan, Minnesota, and Virginia.
Trump immediately garnered wide criticism for inciting violence.
One Virginian writer, Hisham Melhem, addressed the president directly:
‘As a proud #Virginian I hold you responsible for any violence resulting from your revolting incitement. When your neo-fascists, & white nationalists brought their hatred and violence to #Charlottesville, true Virginian patriots upheld the constitution & drove them out of town.’
As a proud #Virginian I hold you responsible for any violence resulting from your revolting incitement. When your neo-fascists, & white nationalists brought their hatred and violence to #Charlottesville, true Virginian patriots upheld the constitution & drove them out of town. https://t.co/Pf03qOttLM
— Hisham Melhem (@hisham_melhem) April 18, 2020
Another writer, Sina Toosi, pointed out shortly after the president’s remarks:
‘Yesterday, Trump tweeted “liberate” Virginia. Yesterday was also the anniversary of Virginia seceding from the union in 1861. Trump’s supporters, some of whom are neo-confederates by the looks of it, have come out heavily armed this week to protest #COVID19 social distancing.’
Trump continues to incite violence against authorities.
Yesterday, Trump tweeted "liberate" Virginia. Yesterday was also the anniversary of Virginia seceding from the union in 1861.
— Sina Toossi (@SinaToossi) April 18, 2020