A couple in Minnesota wore swastika masks while shopping at a Walmart, but claimed they were not Nazis and that – despite wearing the symbol of the Nazis on their faces – it was their political enemies who were the fascists.
When she and her partner, Benjamin Ruesch, saw the couple and confirmed that they were wearing swastikas, they went to the customer service desk to complain.
“That this couple made it in [the Walmart] is appalling. I identify as Christian, but if I were Jewish and I saw someone wearing a swastika, I can only surmise that I might feel that my life was in danger,” Mr Reusch told The Washington Post.
Ms Mueller said she was “really agitated” about the situation. She waited to speak with a manager but then saw the couple in a checkout line and confronted them.
Ms Mueller – who claimed her great-grandmother was a part of a resistance group in Berlin during the rule of Adolf Hitler – said she told the woman that she was from Germany, and explained why the couple shouldn’t wear a swastika. She said the couple showed little remorse, so she began recording the encounter. The incident happened in the town of Marshall, located about 150 miles west of Minneapolis.
“This is what my great-grandmother fought against,” she said. “If I don’t say something, what did she risk her life for?”
At the beginning of the video, the woman in the swastika masks gives the middle finger to Ms Mueller, Mr Ruesch and another customer who was also criticising her mask.
Mr Ruesch tells the woman she “can’t be American and wear that mask”.
“We literally had a war about this,” he adds.
Just a couple of Trump loving nazis shopping at a Minnesota Walmart wearing swastika masks: pic.twitter.com/O2KCA5VwDr
— Morgan J. Freeman (@mjfree)
The woman then approaches the couple and claims that her mask is a political statement meant to show what would happen if people vote for presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the 2020 US election.
“I’m trying to tell people what’s going to happen in America,” the woman says. The older man who is with her then yells that “we’re living under a socialist state.”
The woman continues her bizarre line of reasoning.
“If you vote for Biden, you’re going to be living in Nazi Germany,” the woman says. “That’s what it’s going to be like.”
The woman goes on, attempting to explain how “socialism” is going to happen in America.
A customer tells the woman that “we don’t want you in our neighbourhood,” and the woman – her voice muffled by the swastika-emblazoned cloth draped across her face – replies by insisting “you’re not getting it, I’m not a Nazi.”
“It’s so incredibly offensive. You’re not an American if you wear that mask,” Mr Mueller says as the woman walks away.
Police arrived at the store and served the couple with trespass notices. Walmart employees offered the couple disposable masks to wear, but they refused. They were asked to leave after they “became belligerent” according to a statement released by the company.
“We strive to provide a safe and comfortable shopping environment for all our customers and will not tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment in any aspect of our business,” the statement said. “We are asking everyone to wear face coverings when they enter our stores for their safety and the safety of others and it’s unfortunate that some individuals have taken this pandemic as an opportunity to create a distressing situation for customers and associates in our store.”
Marshall police chief Jeff Wenker told the Associated Press that the couple were issued no-trespass notices which effectively ban them from all Walmart stores for the next year.
The incident caught the attention of state officials and lawmakers.
“Disgraceful, plain and simple,” Minnesota governor Tim Walz tweeted. “Thank you to the bystanders who stood up to this unacceptable, hate-fuelled behaviour.”
Senator Tina Smith also weighed in on the video.
“This isn’t us,” she wrote. “This isn’t the Minnesota I love.”