A nearly two-minute, profanity-laced tirade at a code officer at a Miami Beach grocery store is the latest example of mounting tensions in the US over wearing masks to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
“This is a false flag, a fake pandemic,” shouts an unidentified man Sunday in footage from a body camera worn by the code compliance officer.
“You are in violation of my (expletive) constitutional rights and my civil rights,” the man shouts. The video was released this week by city officials in Miami Beach, Florida.
Whether public officials implement – and people follow – health experts’ advice to wear cloth face coverings in places where it’s hard to stay 6 feet away from others has become a flashpoint across America. Percolating beneath the more general pandemic stress is a political divide over the role of government, science and even truth.
Miami Beach in early April ordered grocery store customers and employees to wear face masks to protect against the coronavirus. The city is in Miami-Dade County, one of three counties exempt from Florida’s reopening plan that began Monday.
The code officer was conducting a routine check Sunday at a Publix grocery store when the video was captured. It is not clear what happened right before the recording began or what sparked the exchange. CNN has reached out to Publix for comment.
City officials in Miami Beach released the video, which also shows the man threatening to file a class action lawsuit and shouting, “You’re terrorists,” and “There is no pandemic.”
The officer tells the man that the store is private property and that he must wear a mask to enter, but the man continues to scream that his rights are being violated.
After about a minute, a patron wearing a mask interjects and yells at the man to leave, the video shows.
“Get away if you don’t give a sh*t. We have a right to give a sh*t,” the patron yells. “You go away.”
The code compliance officer later radios dispatch, though the man who shouted at the officer wasn’t cited or reprimanded in the incident, Miami Beach city officials said.
“Yelling or cursing at city workers who are putting themselves at risk and are just doing their job is really unacceptable,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said. “The City isn’t going to begin arresting people for not wearing masks or violating social distancing rules. But we need you to please follow these procedures even if you disagree with them.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez signaled during a news conference Wednesday that southeast Florida will soon be ready to reopen. But Miami Beach officials cited other cases, beyond the encounter at Publix, of apparent resistance to rules and recommendations meant to keep residents safe.
The city on Monday closed popular South Pointe Park – just five days after it reopened – because of pushback from residents against park rangers’ public health directives, officials said.
Park rangers have reported patrons saying they would break down caution tape and have been told by angry patrons: “Go f**k yourself,” city leaders said. One park ranger of Cuban decent was told “go back to your communist country,” they said.
“Our inspections for facial coverings and social distancing aren’t always welcomed, but we are doing this for the greater good,” Miami Beach Code Compliance Director Hernan Cardeno said. “I’m proud to lead a team of Code Compliance professionals who are on the frontlines every day in our community simply trying to ensure the public complies with the safety measures in place during this global pandemic.”