Not all opponents of mask mandates and anti-vaccine activists are alike. They constitute a diverse and heterogeneous group. But a certain segment of the anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers includes extremists who represent a violent and nefarious influence in our country as we work to defeat this seemingly endless pandemic.
There is a small group of loud, energetic people who object to the wearing of masks. Studies indicate that these people generally believe they are ineffective and violate their civil liberties. Some of these people behave in increasingly violent and dangerous ways.
From July 2020, the Retail Industry Leaders Association expressed alarm on the number of cases of hostility and violence suffered by frontline workers. That same month, a investigation of McDonald’s employees showed that 44% had experienced verbal or physical abuse from customers not wearing masks.
These repeated incidents forced the CDC to come up with new advice for retailers and restaurants on how to prevent workplace violence from customers. These suggestions included installing panic buttons and cameras, and recognizing signs that angry customers might be on the verge of violence.
Since then, things have only gotten worse.
In June 2021, a customer shot and killed a cashier and injured a sheriff’s deputy in a supermarket after an argument over face masks.
In August 2021, Christopher Key, who calls himself the “vaccine police”, broadcast live himself and his “Missouri crew” entering a Walmart Supercenter. The group was targeting pharmacists who they believe should be “executed“for administering the COVID-19 vaccine. They berated the workers, informing them that they had been put”on notice“and that” if they administer one more vaccine … they can be suspended … and executed “.
The group brought with them “affidavits” that would prove that 45,000 people had died within days of being vaccinated against COVID-19. This belief is based on a lawsuit filed by a group called America’s Frontline Doctors (AFLD), recently described in a Time magazine exhibits as’ the 21st century digital version of snake oil sellers. “AFLD was founded by Dr Simone Gold, who was stopped for his participation in the U.S. Capitol Uprising on January 6, 2021.
A drive-thru test and COVID-19 vaccination site in Georgia was recently forced to to close after being threatened by a group of anti-vax protesters. Reports said healthcare workers have been harassed via email and social media.
Healthcare workers have repeatedly faced threats to vaccine promotion, especially from prominent public health experts like Dr Anthony Fauci and Dr Peter Hotez. Both faced serious death threats. A man was arrested for allegedly send threatening messages to Dr Fauci, saying he and his family would be “dragged into the streets, beaten to death and set on fire”. Dr Hotez notes that the threats facing healthcare workers have created “an unprecedented culture of anti-scientific bullying. “
Three men recently ambushed the principal of a school in Arizona. They brought plastic handcuffs, ready to perform a “citizen arrestThey were upset by the principal’s ‘injustice’ asking a child to quarantine a child due to possible exposure to COVID-19. One of the men, Kelly walker, a well-known anti-masker, broadcast the event live on his professional Instagram page.
This same victimized director described some of the death threats she received, including this ominous warning: “Next time it will be a barrel pointed at your Nazi face.”
There is also evidence that extremist groups such as the Proud boys are behind part of the anti-mask organization. As some experts have noted, “violence is at the heart“of their ideology.
At a recent school board meeting in Florida, a wife said that anyone who believes in vaccines or compulsory masks in schools is a “demonic entity” and carries “the mark of the beast”. Then she warned this “all of us Christians are coming together to eliminate them all ”, adding that“ all the police officers who expel us… will also be brought down with them ”.
Not all anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers will turn violent. But these cases illustrate the propensity of some to threaten and escalate into violence as they attempt to overwhelm others with their positions.
It can be easy to laugh at or dismiss these incidents, but to downplay or deny the potential violence associated with these groups and individuals is a big mistake. Pretending that it does not exist is irresponsible and implicitly gives permission to continue violence and destruction.