Images of the man taken by a fellow shopper at a Vons grocery store in Santee, California on May 2 sparked outrage and prompted the San Diego Sheriff’s Department to launch a probe into the incident.
Images of the man taken by a fellow shopper at a Vons grocery store in Santee, California on May 2 sparked outrage and prompted the San Diego Sheriff’s Department to launch a probe into the incident.

Shopper wore KKK hood as virus 'mask'

A man who wore a Ku Klux Klan hood as a face covering at a supermarket in the US won't be penalised as there are no grounds to charge him, police say.

Images of the man taken by a fellow shopper at a Vons grocery store in Santee, California on May 2 sparked outrage and prompted the San Diego Sheriff's Department to launch a probe into the incident.

The KKK employed terror in pursuit of their white supremacist agenda. One group was founded immediately after the Civil War and lasted until the 1870s while the other began in 1915 and has continued to present day.

According to a statement from the department this week, during questioning the unnamed suspect "expressed frustration with the coronavirus and having people tell him what he can and cannot do".

"He said that wearing the hood was not intended to be a racial statement," it said.

"In summary, he said, 'It was a mask and it was stupid'."

Detectives determined there was "insufficient evidence" to charge the man.

The man on May 2, 2020. Picture: Fox 5 San Diego
The man on May 2, 2020. Picture: Fox 5 San Diego

The department said its deputies were not called to the scene at the time the incident took place.

"Detectives from the Sheriff's Department are looking into the matter and will pursue any appropriate criminal charges," it said in a statement last week.

Employees at the store, located about 18 miles (29 kilometres) northeast of San Diego, told the man to remove the hood and he did so at the checkout counter.

To explain its decision not to lay charges, the sheriff's department cited a freedom of speech case before the US Supreme Court.

"The US Supreme Court has said that speech 'that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express the thought that we hate'," its latest statement reads.

"That said, this incident should serve as a reminder for anyone contemplating wearing or displaying items so closely associated with hate and human suffering that our society does not hold in high regard those who do so.

"Santee is a city of families, and the community is rightfully disgusted at this man's despicable behaviour."

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Picture: Fox 5 San Diego
Picture: Fox 5 San Diego

Mayor of Santee, John Minto, was shocked by the incident.

"I am stunned, stunned because it's always sad when somebody, regardless of what the reasoning is, resorts to putting any kind of symbol out there that depicts some kind of hatred," he told the local ABC station at the time.

Tammy Gillies, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, condemned the incident in a message on Twitter saying: "San Diego is #NoPlaceForHate."

Tiam Tellez, who shared photos that he took of the shopper, described the incident as "disgusting" in a Facebook post.

"So troublesome in so many ways this is still happening in Santee at Vons," he wrote.

The unidentified man wore the offensive hood following an order that went into effect requiring everyone in San Diego County to wear a face covering while out in public.

In a statement, Minto insisted that "this particular individual's actions are not representative of us as a people and a wonderful city."

- With AFP

Originally published as Man wore KKK hood as 'mask' at shops


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