GOLD BAR — Gold Bar’s mayor criticized a local grocery store Tuesday, after patrons raised concerns about an armed employee wearing a Ku Klux Klan shirt.
Photos of the Gold Bar Family Grocer employee bagging groceries — armed with a holstered gun and wearing KKK insignia — went viral on Facebook among local residents and business owners.
Meanwhile, store ownership had not confirmed if the employee had been fired.
“I believe the store owners should answer to how this was allowed to happen. No one should feel intimidated going to the local grocery store,” Mayor Steven Yarbrough wrote in an email Tuesday to The Daily Herald. “This is not representative of our city, I am thankful to the citizens who brought this to the community’s attention.”
Underneath a blue apron, the employee was captured wearing a white T-shirt: “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas / Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.” A Blood Drop Cross pin, the symbol for the hate group, was pinned to his chest.
“In addition to the reported racist attire, the open carry gun in combination might be viewed as a violation of the State’s Open Carry laws regarding intimidation,” Yarbrough said.
In Washington, openly carrying a firearm is legal for the general public in many public spaces. However, it is illegal to carry a weapon “at a time and place that either manifests an intent to intimidate another or that warrants alarm for the safety of other persons.”
A spokesperson for the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office was unable to comment on a potential criminal investigation before The Herald’s deadline.
The Ku Klux Klan is an American hate group and terrorist organization centered around White supremacy. Originating after the Civil War in 1865, the group targets Black, Jewish and LGBTQ+ people. The shirt is sold by the American Heritage Committee, a Klan group.
In 2022, the Southern Poverty Law Center identified 26 active far-right hate groups in Washington, including chapters of the Proud Boys and Moms for Liberty.
The employee had not been publicly identified, as of Tuesday.
On Tuesday, a Herald reporter called the grocery store twice. In the first call, an employee hung up when asked if the man was still employed. In the second call, a different employee answered.
“The issue has been addressed, we don’t condone this behavior,” the employee said. “So pretty much, no, he does not work here. I’m not 100% sure, I’m not the owner. But I haven’t seen him, he’s not here. So yeah, thank you.”
The employee then hung up.
KIRO first reported on the uproar late Monday with a photo of the employee.
Meanwhile, Gold Bar residents in a Facebook group debated the employee’s racist attire.
“The KKK is a hate group,” one member wrote. “It is hate to support or present them in any way, it is not free speech to promote a hate group. I hope this individual has been fired.”
Others asserted the clothing choice was an exercise of free speech.
“It most definitely IS free speech,” another user wrote. “With that being said…free speech and free action come with consequences.. good or bad!”
The store remained open Tuesday.
“Hopefully, the Gold Bar Family Grocer reviews and updates policies so that folks feel safe shopping there,” Yarbrough wrote. “Not just local residents, but visitors and anyone passing through.”