The Slatest

A City in Oklahoma Ends Face Mask Requirement After Store Employees Were Threatened

A long line of customers wearing masks and winter coats and pushing shopping carts
The line outside a Costco in Wheaton, Maryland, on April 16. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A city in Oklahoma that had required everyone to wear a face mask when going inside a business has decided to change that rule after store employees were threatened with violence by people who refused to cover their noses and mouths. “In the short time beginning on May 1, 2020, that face coverings have been required for entry into stores/restaurants, store employees have been threatened with physical violence and showered with verbal abuse,” Stillwater City Manager Norman McNickle said in a statement. One threat involved using a firearm, despite “clear medical evidence that face coverings helps contain the spread of COVID-19.”

The emergency measure that had been implemented Thursday called on businesses to require any customers to wear face masks in order to go inside. But for many that seemed to amount to an unacceptable violation of their rights. “Many of those with objections cite the mistaken belief the requirement is unconstitutional, and under their theory, one cannot be forced to wear a mask. No law or court supports this view,” McNickle said in a statement. “It is further distressing that these people, while exercising their believed rights, put others at risk.”

Stillwater Mayor Will Joyce announced the change less than 24 hours after the rule had come into effect after lots of reports of threats of violence against those who were trying to enforce it. Joyce made his frustration clear in a series of tweets, noting that, while he expected some pushback to the rule, he never thought it would lead to threats of violence. “To the people who resort to threats and intimidation when asked to take a simple step to protect your community: shame on you. Our freedom as Americans comes with responsibilities, too,” Joyce tweeted. The face masks are still required for store employees but now only “strongly recommended” for customers, although any business still has the right to demand everyone wear them. “If a business requires you to wear a face covering and you refuse to do so the business has the right to refuse you service and/or demand you leave their establishment,” police Chief Jeff Watts said. “If you refuse to do so you could be cited and/or arrested for trespassing if the business calls the police and requests to make a citizen’s arrest.”