On July 25, a Minnesota couple donned masks emblazoned with swastikas while shopping at a Walmart.
Raphaela Mueller, a German immigrant whose great-grandmother was a part of a Nazi-resistance organization, took a video of the couple, which was posted on Facebook. Mueller’s partner, Benjamin Ruesch, accused the couple of being “sick.”
“You can’t be American and wear that mask,” Ruesch said to them. “ You cannot. We literally had a war about this.”
The woman wearing the mask, who has not been publicly identified, said she and the man weren’t Nazis and were wearing the masks to protest presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
“If you vote for Biden, this is what you are going to have: socialism,” she said.
The woman responded to people expressing outrage over the masks by putting up two middle fingers and blowing kisses.
This couple wore Nazi flags around their faces inside a Walmart in Marshall, MN to protest the statewide mask mandate that took effect today. I confirmed with a store manager. Video was posted to FB by Raphaela Mueller pic.twitter.com/t3v96PKh25
— Max Nesterak (@maxnesterak) July 25, 2020
Mueller told the Minnesota Reformer, “I was crying when I was taking the video. This is really traumatic to see something like this because we all know what happened during the Holocaust. To be so blatantly disrespectful is so hurtful.”
A spokesperson for Walmart said in a statement later that evening to CBS News that the store had offered to give disposable masks for the couple to wear instead of the swastika masks, but the couple refused.
“What happened today at our store in Marshall, Minn., is unacceptable,” the statement read. “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 continued, “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.”
Jewish Community, a Minnesota Jewish social justice organization, tweeted, “Comparing public safety measures to Nazism while wearing Nazi masks in protest is confusing to say the least. It’s ahistoric & deeply offensive. Don’t do this.”
In Marshall, MN today, a couple wore swastikas to protest the statewide mask mandate.
— Jewish Community Action (@JCA_MN) July 26, 2020
Police told CBS that the couple was issued issued trespass warnings, barring them from entering a Walmart store for a year.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Waltz, a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, implemented a statewide mask mandate via executive order on July 22. Under the mandate, people must wear a mask or some form of face covering when inside restaurants, stores and other establishments. Walmart has had a storewide policy requiring customers to wear masks prior to Waltz’s mandate.
In May, a man and woman wore swastika masks inside a Food 4 Less in a San Diego suburb. When police arrived, the man told police, “We have a Nazi for a governor. Now you guys are here, literally proving my point.”