- Two shoppers were banned from Walmart after wearing face masks with the swastika symbol at a store in Marshall, Minnesota.
- Video footage shows the shoppers being confronted by other customers, including one who says: "You can't be American and wear that mask. You cannot. We literally had a war about this."
- The woman responded by framing her actions as a protest against mandatory masks: "If you vote for Biden you're gonna be in Nazi Germany. That's what it's going to like."
- Walmart called the incident "unacceptable," and said it made masks mandatory for customers "for their safety and the safety of others."
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Two shoppers who were banned from Walmarts nationwide after wearing swastika masks in a Minnesota store, prompting an angry confrontation with other customers.
The two were filmed on Saturday in the store in Marshall, Minnesota, wearing loose face masks featuring a black swastika in a white circle on a red background — the flag of the German Nazi party.
When confronted, one woman said "I'm not a Nazi" and argued that their mask was a protest at the prospect of a Joe Biden presidency.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that police gave trespass notices to the 59-year-old man and 64-year-old woman, who have not been named.
The notice warned them they would face arrest if they returned to the store. Police did not pursue any charges against them.
A Walmart spokesperson told local NBC station KARE 11 that the two customers have been banned for one year.
The shoppers appeared to be acting in protest against being made to wear a mask, which is both a Walmart policy a Minnesota mandate. The state requires people to wear masks at indoor business premises.
BuzzFeed News reported that the video was filmed by Benjamin Ruesch, 29. It was then posted to Facebook by Raphaela Mueller, 24, the vicar of a parish in southwest Minnesota.
The video shows Ruesch saying to the two customers as they purchase their groceries: "You're sick. You have an illness. You can't be American and wear that mask. You cannot. We literally had a war about this."
The woman responds: "I'm not a Nazi. I'm trying to show you what's going to happen in America," she said. "If you vote for Biden you're gonna be in Nazi Germany. That's what it's going to like."
The man then says: "We're living under a socialist state."
Biden has backed the wearing of masks as a measure to control the spread of the coronavirus. President Donald Trump has been more ambivalent about masks, but has at times supported them and worn one himself.
You can watch the video here:
Mueller, the vicar who posted the video, wrote on Facebook: " I was born and raised in Germany, and I grew up hearing about my great-grandmother who fought in the underground against the first wave of Nazis in the 1930s and 40s."
"Let me make this abundantly clear once and for all – THE SWASTIKA IS A HATE SYMBOL AND YOU DO NOT FLY THE FLAG, YOU DO NOT WEAR THE SYMBOL ANYWHERE ON YOUR BODY, YOU DO NOT USE OR DEFEND THIS SYMBOL, EVER. END OF STORY."
BuzzFeed reported that the two customers were offered other disposable face masks but refused them, and that the police were called after they became belligerent when asked to leave by Walmart staff.
Retail employees across the US have described abuse from customers who don't want to wear masks, including being verbally and physically assaulted.
Walmart has required customers to wear masks in its stores since July 20.
But the company says that it is not asking staff to enforce the rule. Instead, it says, they should continue serving customers who are not wearing masks so that they can avoid a "physical confrontation."
In its statement to KARE 11 on Saturday, Walmart called the incident in Minnesota "unacceptable."
"We strive to provide a safe and comfortable shopping environment for all our customers and will not tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment in any aspect of our business," it said.
"We are asking everyone to wear face coverings when they enter our stores for their safety and the safety of others and it's unfortunate that some individuals have taken this pandemic as an opportunity to create a distressing situation for customers and associates in our store."
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