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Kelowna RCMP investigating after mall staff member allegedly threatened by anti-mask demonstrator

Click to play video: 'Police called to anti-mask protest at Kelowna mall' Police called to anti-mask protest at Kelowna mall
WATCH: Police in Kelowna were called to the region’s biggest mall over the weekend after anti-mask demonstrators descended on the location. Some in the group allegedly refused to comply with the province’s mask mandate and also wouldn't leave the shopping centre. – Nov 23, 2020

Kelowna RCMP say police are investigating an allegation that a staff member at Orchard Park Shopping Centre was threatened on Saturday by someone who was part of a group of anti-mask demonstrators.

Officers initially responded to the mall to deal with an allegation that some members of a protest group had refused to wear masks in the mall and then refused to leave when staff asked them to, police said.

One mall patron, who witnessed the anti-mask protest, described seeing around 20 to 30 people not wearing masks and singing O Canada.

Read more: Kelowna, B.C., business owner berated by anti-maskers while holding baby

“Everybody has a right to protest…but when there is a public health order and it’s a pandemic you need to follow public health orders. Go protest on the street with your signs, try and get attention that way, but not inside a mall where it can seriously put other people’s health at risk,” Nicole Blomerus, who was in the mall on Saturday, said.

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One Kelowna resident, whose son works at the mall, said the young man, who is immune-compromised, was surrounded by unmasked anti-mask demonstrators who were telling him to, “Take off your f—–g mask.”

“They said [it] over and over and over to him to the point he actually felt scared and security was even called,” said the Kelowna mother, who Global News has agreed not to identify because she is concerned speaking publicly might impact her son’s employment.
Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Vancouver restaurant welcomes new mandatory masks rules' Coronavirus: Vancouver restaurant welcomes new mandatory masks rules
Coronavirus: Vancouver restaurant welcomes new mandatory masks rules – Nov 19, 2020

The mother said security staff responded quickly and moved the group along.

She estimates the whole confrontation lasted around 20-30 seconds.

The Kelowna mother does not believe her son’s experience is part of the police threats investigation.

Read more: Anti-masker allegedly spits on Penticton liquor store employee, damages his cell phone

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Police said after officers responded to the mall and spoke to demonstrators, the group agreed to leave the shopping center “without further incident.”

“While on scene, investigators determined that an individual from the group had allegedly threatened a staff member of the mall but had left prior to police attendance,” Cst. Solana Paré said in a statement.

The RCMP is continuing to investigate that threat allegation.

Enforcement a last resort

The protest at the mall comes amid a string of anti-mask confrontations in the Okanagan.

The Penticton RCMP is looking into an allegation that a woman spit at a liquor store employee on Saturday after she was asked to wear a mask.

A Kelowna cafe owner said police were called to her business on Saturday after a group of people refused to wear masks or leave the store.

Read more: Okanagan residents, businesses react to new mask mandate

Kelowna RCMP said they’ve responded to “several calls for service in regards to disturbances at businesses related to requirements to wear non-medical masks and/or to sanitize upon entry where patrons have been refused service.

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“Individuals have the right not to attend the business if they decide not to wear a protective mask to help prevent the spread COVID-19. We highly encourage everyone to respect provincial health orders for their safety and the safety of others,” Const. Solana Paré said in a statement to Global News.

Click to play video: 'Kelowna business owner faced with hostile anti-mask customers' Kelowna business owner faced with hostile anti-mask customers
Kelowna business owner faced with hostile anti-mask customers – Nov 22, 2020

The Kelowna RCMP said it remains focused on educating people about the COVID-19 safety measures.

“Enforcement is typically seen as a last resort, but one that can be used if the circumstances warrant,” Paré said.

Read more: COVID-19: Alberta is the only province without a mask mandate. What is the impact on public perception?

Masks are mandatory in all indoor public places in B.C.

The provincial government said there are exemptions for people who can’t put on their own masks and babies who are less than two years old.

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Across B.C. businesses are being asked to back-up the province’s mask mandate by telling customers about the policy.

The province says patrons can be refused service if they won’t put on a mask and if staff are feeling unsafe or threatened, they should call the police.

– with files from Shelby Thom

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