FRESNO, California (KGPE) – Fresno’s Chief of Police Paco Balderrama addressed the anti-mask protest that took place at Sprout’s Farmers Market on Saturday.
Balderrama said the police department wants to protect citizens’ constitutional rights – but will also take action against anyone who refuses to leave an establishment when asked to do so.
“They have the right to freedom of speech. They do not have the right to impede the ingress and egress of a certain establishment. They cannot block the doors, they cannot intimidate customers,” said Balderrama.
Moving forward, Chief Balderrama said if a customer enters an establishment without wearing a mask, the owner or manager can ask that the customer leaves the premises. If they refuse to leave, police can and will get involved.
“We will always afford an individual the opportunity to leave if they are not following the policies of a particular establishment. If they refuse to leave, that person can and will be arrested for trespassing,” he said.
Balderrama said Benjamin Martin, who organized the anti-mask protest on Saturday, was arrested and detained temporarily before being released. He said he’s since had a conversation with Mr. Martin and believes they have a mutual understanding.
“I believe that there’s a way that he and his group can exercise their constitutional rights without infringing on the rights of others,” Balderrama said.
Balderrama said he has spoken with Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp, who said she would accept arrests made on the grounds of trespassing, intimidation, harassing, and/or disorderly conduct.
Police will not arrest people for not wearing masks, but they will arrest people who do not leave the premises of a private establishment when asked to do so.