A customer wearing a swastika face mask was confronted by deputies at a grocery store in the same Southern California community where another shopper wore a Ku Klux Klan hood just days ago ― the latest examples of white supremacist and anti-Semitic symbols being used to protest COVID-19 safety measures.
The shopper removed the swastika after being ordered to do so by deputies called to the scene at Food 4 Less in Santee on Thursday, said law enforcement authorities.
The shopper — who later identified himself to the Times of San Diego (and to police) as Santee resident Dustin Hart — uploaded a video of his confrontation with a store clerk and a pair of deputies called to the scene to deal with a “disturbance.” He claimed it was his “First Amendment” right to wear the mask. But one of the deputies pointed out that he was in a “family friendly” private store that “can make their own rules.” The officer added: “They don’t want people seeing that. It’s offensive.”
Seconds earlier, the Times reported, a store clerk asked him to remove the mask because it was “basically a hate crime.” He refused.
In a video of the incident Hart posted to BitChute, a right-wing video platform that often features hate speech, he appeared to be with his wife, who was wearing a black T-shirt with the “honkler” clown version of Pepe the Frog, a white nationalist meme.
The San Diego Sheriff’s Department issued a statement saying that when deputies “asked for the symbol to be removed, the man complied.” Investigators will “continue to look into the matter,” the statement added. “The Sheriff’s Department does not condone hate or acts of intolerance. We are a county that is welcoming of people from all backgrounds.”
Hart was asked not to return to the store, reported NBC 7 in San Diego.
Clerks and customers confronted another man provocatively wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood as a face covering in a Vons supermarket in Santee just last weekend. He refused to remove the hood until shortly before he paid for his groceries and left.
People in the community expressed outrage — again — on Friday. San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob said that such “sad, vile acts like this must not be tolerated here or anywhere else. It’s deeply offensive to the community and our entire region.”
Santee has a dark history of racist attacks and skinhead activity that earned the San Diego suburb of some 55,000 people the nicknames “Klantee” and “Santucky.”
Protests against coronavirus lockdown measures have featured hate symbols in notable instances.
The Auschwitz Museum deplored the use of a Nazi slogan by a protester in Chicago earlier this month. She held aloft a sign reading: “Arbeit Macht Frei J.B.” The phrase means “work sets you free,” and was posted at some Nazi death camps where Jews and others were worked to death or killed during World War II. “J.B.” Pritzker, the governor of Illinois, is Jewish.
Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a recent interview condemned racist symbols, including Confederate flags and swastikas, displayed by some in a protest against stay-at-home COVID-19 safety measures at the state’s Capitol building last month.
More than two-thirds of Americans still support stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of the coronavirus, according to a HuffPost/YouGov poll published Friday. COVID-19 has killed more than 77,000 people in the U.S. as of Saturday morning, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.
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