Black men wearing COVID-19 masks at store reportedly booted out for not removing

The incident reportedly occurred in an Illinois suburb

A video of two men being walked out of an Illinois Walmart has gone viral. In the footage, one of the men claimed they were escorted out due to their refusal to remove protective COVID-19 masks from their faces.

Several Twitter users have viewed the video and criticized the officer shown in the footage. The video, which was first posted online last month, reportedly captures an incident that happened at a Walmart in Wood River, Illinois. The video resurfaced Tuesday when user Stance Grounded posted it with the caption:

“Two black men were kicked out of Walmart, escorted out by a cop who had his hand on the gun...FOR WEARING MASKS TO PROTECT THEMSELVES Are you kidding me?”

Credit: Courtesy of The Telegraph YouTube

Credit: Courtesy of The Telegraph YouTube

In the video, which has been viewed more than 122,000 times on Twitter, a man with a mask on is seen speaking to the camera. An officer is seen walking behind him, gripping his holster and gun.

“This officer right here behind us...just followed us in the store...He just  followed us from outside, told us that we cannot wear masks,” the man says to the camera. “There’s a presidential order. There’s a state order, and he’s following us outside the store. We’re being asked to leave for staying safe.”

The video can be seen here. It includes graphic language that may not be suitable for children.

Several people responded to the video, which was posted Tuesday afternoon. Many found issue with the officer handling his gun, which many thought was beyond the call of duty. Others were upset by the men being asked to remove their masks in the store. The CDC recently advised Americans to wear masks when out at stores or in public.

A user, @melaniecoleMS, responded to the video, stating that she had reached out to Walmart’s corporate office.

“I just called. .manager told me to call media relations which is exactly what I’m going to do. I may be a white lady, but I’m a medical professional and this (expletive) (expletive) me off. Those guys were doing the right thing and it’s shameful what happened to them.”

Another user said the men were targeted due to their race, and the city of Wood River, Illinois, has a history of bias against black people.

@psychomomof2  said: “Not surprised, Wood River, IL was listed as a sundown town, where African Americans were not welcome after dark. ( or anytime) The town is around 10,000 people 92% white, not far from St. Louis. The stereotypes and bigotry are alive and well in Illinois.”

Late last month, Wood River Police Chief Brad Wells said he had been reluctant to make a public statement about the incident. He said the posted video doesn't show the entire interaction between the officer and the men. The video was recorded before the CDC order was put in place and masks became more widespread, Wells told The Telegraph.

“There’s not much I can say,” said Wells. “I backed the officer by what he tells me. Just like anything, there’s more to the story.”

Wells said the officer “was mistaken when it came to the store’s policy prohibiting masks” and it was “the one error” made in the incident.

Jermon Best of Belleville, Illinois, is the man featured in the video, according to The Telegraph. He said he uploaded the video to show the world what racial profiling looks like in the midst of a pandemic.

“I don’t know this guy personally,” said Best, who posted the video under the name Halo Dale. “We just want to shine some light because this happens so often.”

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