FRESNO, California (KGPE) – Fresno city leaders are addressing the anti-mask protest at Sprouts Farmers Market over the weekend that ended with an arrest and the store closing for a few hours.
“We are asking people, can you just please abide by the mask rule in our city? And if there is a business that requires a mask. Would you just wear it?” said Mayor Jerry Dyer.
The group protesting the mask policy at Sprouts Saturday also went to Total Wine; a few weeks ago they also went to Trader Joe’s, forcing the store to close due to the disturbance.
“It’s not right. You can’t say you support businesses when you’re willing to do that. You can’t say you support rights when you’re taking away someone’s ability to earn,” said Fresno City Council Member Mike Karbassi.
Dyer says the police department can be called on by business owners if someone trespasses. If the officer sees the violation, the officer may cite the individual for a misdemeanor – or arrest them if they refuse to leave. If the officer doesn’t see the violation themselves, the owner or employee who did can assist in a citizen’s arrest.
Dyer asks businesses to create a spot outside where people can protest without intruding the entrance.
“I’m asking business owners to establish at their business, these locations within their parking lot that is close enough to where they can certainly have a conversation with customers, but not be in a position to deny them entrance or block their entrance into the establishment,” said Dyer.
Soon after, a photo circulated online appearing to show a Fresno police officer posing for a picture with several anti-mask protectors.
“That officer was simply taking a photograph with a fellow citizen in the community who asked to do that,” said Dyer.
He added Chief Paco Balderrama had seen the photo and reminded his department to avoid taking photos at politically-driven events. The chief was also said to be meeting with the anti-mask protester group to try to come to an understanding and help them understand the laws.
“We do not need any more confrontations like we’ve had this weekend. They’re unproductive. All they do is create a divide in our community. And at the end of the day, it takes our police officers away from their normal duties to protect our citizens,” said Dyer.