VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Customers are rallying to support a store in Vancouver where the owner says staff are still shaken by an incident of harassment by an anti-masker whose supporters are now targeting the business online.
On Feb. 9, a man entered Kerrisdale Cameras and refused to wear a mask, and then refused to leave prompting workers to press the panic button and call 911.
Owner Linda Hudson says she came down from her office as soon as she heard from her frightened workers.
“Our staff are very nervous, they’re basically afraid right now, as they were when this all happened. This person, he came in and before he started filming us, he made it very clear that he doesn’t have a medical exemption, and that he refuses to wear a mask. He then started spewing anti-mask rhetoric and conspiracy theory comments. He was harassing us for our safety protocols. Additional staff from the office and warehouse came down to support the staff, to make a presence known that our frontline staff are not alone in this,” she says.
“It was getting scary and we didn’t know what was going to happen next.”
A police report has been made, but Hudson says she has not received an update on the investigation. NEWS 1130 has contacted the Vancouver Police Department for comment.
Now, Hudson and the employees at the store are worried the man will come back, or that his supporters will show up in-person.
The man posted a video to Instagram, and Hudson says since then her business has been receiving emails, phone calls, and a series of negative reviews from his supporters.
According to Hudson, Instagram will not take the video down, and she wishes the platform would reconsider.
“Please remove it. We were harassed. Now, thousands of people are seeing this, and they’re now starting to harass us. There’s a couple of us that are in that video that are afraid,” she says.
“When I leave here at the end of the day, it’s dark out. I’m afraid. I would like to have seen it removed a week ago.”
Hudson also says she hasn’t had any success getting Google or Yelp to take down one-star reviews that were clearly written by people who have never been in the store, and are spreading false information about being discriminated against in the store.
“They’re referring to this video, this particular guy who we wouldn’t serve because we could not do it safely, because he was violating the health order and does not have a medical exemption — which he made very clear to us.”
Customers, commenters offering much-needed support
Hudson says customers going out of their way to post positive comments online, or to shop at the store, are providing a much-needed boost to her and her staff.
“The support that we’re seeing is just incredible, the number of posts that are supporting our staff for doing the right things. We’re doing our best as any small business is right now to protect our staff, protect our customers. We’re seeing that the community recognizes that in their comments online,” she says.
I’ve seen posts indicating people are planning to come in to buy something to show support for Kerrisdale Cameras. When I asked Hudson about those posts, she said she’s hopeful people are supporting all small businesses right now, not just her shop.
— Martin MacMahon (@martinmacmahon) February 18, 2021
“I think it”s also really just helping our staff to hear the support, because it is such an unnerving situation.”
Hudson points out that small, local businesses are hurting due to the pandemic, and ongoing support is crucial for their survival — and their spirits.
“Go to any store — not just us — but support local businesses,” she says.
“They are trying to do their best, as we are, to follow safety protocols. We all need the support from the community.”
Enforcing mask mandate ‘a challenge’
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry resisted a province-wide order mandating masks before ultimately introducing one on Nov. 19 partly due to concern over “challenges with enforcement.”
“We are becoming obligated to enforce it. It’s a challenge for us. We want to serve and help those who truly have medical exemptions and we’ve been able to do so safely,” Hudson says.
“But we didn’t anticipate having to deal with an anti-masker.”
The incident captured in the video is the first time the store has had to ask someone to leave who refused to comply and then refused to leave the premises.
“We’re afraid of this happening again, and how we’re going to handle it,” Hudson says.
“How to safely deal with an anti-masker is just not something we’re all ready to do. We’re a small business we don’t have loss prevention officers. It’s a challenge.”