Swastika masks worn in my Minnesota hometown of Walmart. What’s going on?

What’s going on in my hometown, Walmart? On Saturday, the first day of the Minnesota Mask’s mandatory term, a man and woman went shopping at Walmart in Marshall, with a population of 15,000, wearing masks with swastikas.

In a video posted on Facebook, the man calmly pays for items, including toilet paper and a tub of cheese balls, while the woman responds to buyers who challenge her: “If you vote for Biden, you will live in Nazi Germany, that is what it will be like. Socialism is going to happen here in America! “He gestured with both middle fingers and then blew a kiss into the air behind his mask.

The video was posted by Raphaela Mueller, a 24-year-old local Lutheran vicar. “I gasped audibly,” Mueller said in a phone interview with CBS News, explaining that he first saw the couple wearing the swastika masks in the kitchen section. She went to the customer service counter to inform management and by then the couple was already close.

Mueller’s partner Benjamin Ruesch yelled at the couple. “You’re sick! Yes, you’re sick. You can’t be an American and wear that mask … we literally had a war over this.”

The woman said, “You don’t understand, I am not a Nazi.”

“So why are you wearing the f ** king mask?” Mueller asked.

“Because I’m trying to tell you that if you vote for Biden, this is what you are going to have, socialism!”

Local police were called and a police department official told CBS News that the 59-year-old man and 64-year-old woman received “intrusion notices,” which Walmart confirmed. It means they are not allowed in any Walmart facility for at least one year.

CBS News has been unable to identify the couple and their names were not shared by the police department.

Walmart said in a statement provided to CBS News: “What happened today at our store in Marshall, MN is unacceptable. We strive to provide a safe and comfortable shopping environment for all of our customers and will not tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment in no aspect of our business. We are asking everyone to put on face covers when they enter our stores for their safety and the safety of others and it is unfortunate that some people have taken this pandemic as an opportunity to create a distressing situation for customers and associates in our Store. “

Walmart told CBS News that a local manager tried to offer the couple disposable masks, but they declined.

A man and woman are seen at a Walmart in Minnesota wearing facial covers with swastikas.

Raphaela Mueller

Mueller said the history of the swastika and Nazi Germany is personal to her. He said that she is a German citizen who is currently on a visa to study at a seminary in the United States, and that she grew up hearing stories about her great-grandmother, Magdalena, a member of an underground Nazi resistance organization called “The Red Chapel.”

At an American Walmart, 75 years after the end of World War II, Mueller said that “I was not prepared to see something like this with my own eyes” and said that he only saw his recording once, as it was too painful.

Marshall, a predominantly white city, has diversified over the past 40 years as a home to growing Latino, East African, and Asian immigrants, but the Jewish community is very small.

Nonna Gutman, my high school math teacher who immigrated to the United States in 1991 with her family from the Soviet Union as a Jewish refugee, said her family represents “half of the Jewish population” in the city.

Gutman said his first reaction to the video was “shock,” but said he thought the two were trying to get attention by incorrectly using the swastika to represent socialism, which Gutman argued should also be condemned.

“They used the Nazi swastika to draw attention to what they think is bad. Do I approve of using the swastika for any reason? Absolutely not,” Gutman added. “It was comforting for me to see people object.”

The woman in the store said they are not Nazis, but the cheekiness of the symbol’s public display comes at a time when anti-Semitic assault, vandalism, and harassment incidents are at the highest rate in the US since 1979, the Anti-Defamation League observed in May. There were more than 2,000 such incidents in 2019, the ADL said.

Joe Biden says he decided to run for president after the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where neo-Nazi and white supremacists killed one woman and wounded dozens more after leading against the crowd of counter-protesters he had been following .

With 100 days to go until the presidential elections, the country is debating the appropriate pandemic policies and how to move forward.

Meanwhile, the message from local officials at Marshall is clear: demanding that you wear a mask is not Nazism.

“This is a health problem, not a political problem,” said Bob Byrnes, mayor of Marshall, Minnesota. “I think the vast majority of people recognize that wearing a mask is the best way to control the spread of the virus.”

The display of racism will also continue to be investigated, the mayor said.