A small group of "peaceful" face-mask dissidents organized a public display of defiance of mask mandates Saturday. Only four showed their unmasked faces to the public.
It started with a public Facebook event dubbed the "DFW No-Mask Peaceful Walk-In" that later met in the parking lot of a Kroger grocery store on North MacArthur Boulevard in Irving.
The event page attracted a noticeable majority of comments from people who didn't agree with its plan to protest against mask requirements by entering private or public spaces without a mask. The comments section was eventually closed down by its organizer, Sam Walker, and the entire event page has since been removed from Facebook.
"You're fine with people not being able to go to funerals?" Walker wrote in a response in the event's discussion page. "You're fine with the elderly being lonely because they can't receive visitors? You're fine with 30 million suddenly going into unemployment and suicides and domestic violence being on the rise because of that? If you're fine with forcing any/all of those situations, you have quite the audacity to call anyone else selfish."
The followers who clicked "Going" received private messages from Walker in a Facebook Messenger group. The Dallas Observer was able to obtain screenshots of the conversation leading up to and during the protest.
The original plan was to meet in the Kroger parking lot and enter the store passing by signs at the entrances announcing the store's mask requirement. The Kroger Co. said last Wednesday that it would institute a mask mandate for all of its locations. One person identified herself as a medical worker but did not specify her place of employment.
"I'm a nurse — got called into work tomorrow," she wrote. "How late will y'all be out?"
Walker planned to enter some 7-Eleven stores "because they've been cracking down hard on masks," he wrote in the messenger group.
Walker also noted that several "maskers" got word about the event and advised his fellow anti-maskers: "If you carry protection, I suggest you do that."
There didn't seem to be enough people to form groups to storm various store chains with their exposed faces. Only four people made it to the meetup point, a patch of shaded grass near the Kroger location's gas station. One of the protesters, identified on her Facebook page as Shelley Allen, showed up with a blue, white and silver protest sign that read "Unmasked! Unafraid! Joshua 1:9," with little hearts next to the Bible reference.
"You know how many people showed. How do you think it went?" Walker says in response to the Dallas Observer's query about the protest. "What a lame question."
The Irving PD and several store employees were ready to greet the protesters if they tried to enter the store. After the four showed up, officers wearing face masks peacefully approached them. Allen described them in a public Facebook post: "Everyone was calm, respectful and friendly," he wrote.
Walker said that store managers saw them coming and that, "Property owners are fine with us out here but will press charges if we enter stores. So, we'll go elsewhere. Lol."
However, some or all of the protesters said online that they entered the store without the required face masks. Walker says in the Facebook Messenger group sometime later that he and the group were "Doing some grocery shopping lol."
"I feel good that people in the store saw me without my mask, that they now know that not everyone has to be so enslaved," Allen wrote on her Facebook page. "I felt sorry for them, living and walking around in their fear and discomfort."
Walker declined to answer questions following the event except to say "You can publish I'm not a Trump supporter. For some reason, people assume I am."
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