Police: Bothell anti-mask protester arrested for trespassing

She ignored an order to leave a grocery store, police said. A video claimed she was detained simply for not wearing a mask.

BOTHELL — Bothell police are contesting an online video claiming officers arrested a woman for not wearing a mask at a PCC Community Markets store.

Police said the woman was briefly taken into custody for criminal trespass at the grocery store Saturday in the 22600 block of Bothell-Everett Highway.

“We have not arrested any person, at any time, for ‘not wearing a mask,’” a statement released by the police department said.

She was, however, issued a trespassing warning for entering the store and refusing to wear a mask. Police then detained her for the misdemeanor under state RCW 9A.52, because she ignored multiple warnings and refused to leave.

In June, Gov. Jay Inslee mandated everyone must wear a mask or cloth face covering in any public setting where they cannot maintain a distance of at least 6 feet, a move to blunt the spread of COVID-19. As of Thursday, the virus had infected at least 8,351 people in Snohomish County, killing 228. Health officials say a third wave of COVID cases is under way and appears to be worse than a spike that was seen in the summer.

Most, if not all, law enforcement agencies in the state have taken an educational approach rather than an enforcement approach when it comes to the governor’s pandemic mandates. Inslee said in July that he expected businesses to not serve customers if they aren’t wearing a mask.

The video, titled “Woman Unlawfully Arrested in PCC Grocery Store For Not Wearing A Mask,” was uploaded to YouTube on Oct. 20 by an account that openly supports far-right conspiracy theories.

It depicts a brief scene in which a woman is arrested inside a grocery store. She is not wearing a mask. A man recording the video says the woman is “medically exempt.” The woman and the cameraperson claim she would leave the store, at the officer’s request. They question what evidence he had of trespassing. The officer handcuffs her against a display of packaged salads. He lightly pushes her at one point and asks her to stop resisting.

As the officer escorts the woman out the store, the cameraperson follows. He yells, “medically exempt,” at two grocery workers as he leaves. Outside, he keeps talking: “City of Bothell is paying to enforce corporate policy for PCC.”

According to Bothell police, officers responded on Saturday to the store due to reports of a group of people was harassing customers as they entered. A caller said members of the group entered the store without face coverings and refused to leave when asked by management.

Officers estimated up to 70 people had gathered outside the store, and were “shouting, chanting and holding signs” with statements to the effect of “The Pandemic is a Fraud” and “Honk if you Question the Mask Mandate,” according to the statement.

Store employees told officers they were giving free masks for anyone entering the store and that about 10 people who entered refused to wear any face coverings. A manager also expressed concern the group was preventing customers from coming into the store and was potentially blocking a fire lane.

According to the statement, an officer told the group that if they didn’t leave, the store wanted them arrested for criminal trespassing. The group left the store but continued talking with the officer, who explained that Bothell police weren’t enforcing the mask mandate.

The officer also reportedly told them if they went into the store without a face covering and refused to leave after multiple requests from management, they would be issued a trespass warning. After that, if they still didn’t leave, they could be arrested, the officer reportedly warned.

About five minutes later, a small group went back into the store, including the woman who was detained in the video, according to police. She reportedly kept arguing with the officer and the store manager.

Again, she was warned that arrest was a possibility, but “the female ignored the officer and continued to walk through the store,” the police department’s news release explained.

The statement acknowledges the officer had the woman standing up against the produce wall, and that she resisted arrest for a couple of minutes. Afterward, she was taken to the police department. She was not booked into jail.

Charges were referred to prosecutors.

A Herald reporter sent a message to the YouTube account that posted the video, asking for comment on the Bothell Police Department’s response. Someone responded and declined to speak.

Zachariah Bryan: 425-339-3431; zbryan@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @zachariahtb.

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