Walmart temporarily banned a couple after the pair wore swastika face masks into a Minnesota store in what they claimed was a political statement in the wake of a statewide mask mandate.
Disturbing video taken Saturday inside the Walmart in Marshall one day after the state’s coronavirus mask rule went into effect showed the man and woman checking out at a register as the woman made obscene hand gestures while wearing the red and black Nazi symbol.
“You cannot be an American and wear that mask. You cannot,” someone behind the camera told her. “We literally had a war about this.”
The unidentified woman is heard telling other shoppers, “I’m not a Nazi,” when confronted about her attire. She instead claimed that she was only wearing the symbol of hate as a political statement.
“If you vote for [Joe] Biden, you’re going to be in Nazi Germany. That’s what it’s going to be like,” she said, referring to the former vice president’s White House run. “Socialism is going to happen here in America.”
Another photo posted to Facebook appeared to show the woman at one point extending her left arm out as if to give a Nazi salute.
Officers with the Marshall Police Department responded to a disturbance call at the store around noon. They issued a notice of trespass to the couple, who were identified only as a man, 59, and a woman, 64. They left without further incident, local station KARE-11 reported.
Shopper Raphaela Mueller, who posted the couple’s photo and video to Facebook, said she was born and raised in Germany. She said seeing the symbol, which is illegal in her home country because of the atrocities associated with it, left her physically unwell.
“It’s been shown that, biologically, trauma passes down through the generations in your DNA,” she told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “My immediate physical reaction was nausea and wanting to cry, so I can’t imagine what that must feel like for other people who lost family members in the Holocaust.”
A Walmart spokesperson called the shoppers’ behaviour unacceptable in a statement to HuffPost Sunday and added that the couple will not be allowed to return to Walmart stores for at least one year.
“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,” the statement said.
Walmart has required shoppers to wear masks inside its Minnesota stores since July 20 in an effort to decrease the spread of COVID-19. “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,” the spokesperson said, referring to the mask rule.