Swastika masks video goes viral
Walmart bans local couple after Marshall store episode; security video footage shows one person punched in face
MARSHALL — A video of two people wearing masks patterned like Nazi flags at the Marshall Walmart location went viral over the weekend.
After being confronted by other shoppers, the couple were banned from the store for a year, Marshall Police said.
The roughly two-minute video, which shows a man and a woman in the checkout area at Walmart wearing red face masks with swastikas — the symbol of Nazi Germany –on them, was posted on social media on Saturday morning. Since then, the video has generated hundreds of Facebook comments and received attention from Minnesota and national media outlets.
“The entire experience was pretty surreal,” said Raphaela Mueller, who posted the video on social media after encountering the couple at the Marshall Walmart. Mueller is the vicar of the Healing Waters ELCA parish in Yellow Medicine County, but she was born and grew up in Germany. When she first saw the couple’s swastika masks, Mueller said, “I was completely speechless. It kind of felt like a smack in the face.”
There have been no criminal charges filed in the incident, but Walmart asked police to give the two people in swastika masks trespassing notices, said Marshall Police Captain Jeff Wenker. The notices mean they are not allowed to come back to Walmart for a year, Wenker said. Wenker said police aren’t releasing the two people’s names out of concern for retaliation against them. However, he said they were a 56-year-old woman and a 61-year-old man, both Marshall residents.
While it wasn’t captured on Mueller’s video, Wenker said store security footage showed that one of the people in swastika masks was later punched in the face by another shopper.
Mueller said she and her partner Benjamin Ruesch were at the Walmart in Marshall on Saturday, which was the first day that a statewide mask order went into effect in Minnesota. When they saw the couple wearing face masks that looked like Nazi flags, they tried to speak to a store manager about it. Then, the couple started checking out at the register across from the customer service area where Mueller and Ruesch were standing.
Mueller said she took a picture of the couple. The woman “saw me and started posing,” Mueller said. Mueller then started taking video.
In Mueller’s video, she, Ruesch, and at least one other shopper can be heard confronting the couple over their masks.
“You can’t be American and wear that mask. You cannot. We literally had a war about this,” Ruesch said in the video.
“If you vote for Biden, we’re gonna be in Nazi Germany. That’s what it’s gonna be like,” the woman in the swastika mask replied.
“You’re literally wearing a Nazi flag right now,” Mueller said.
Mueller’s video ends with the woman walking off-camera, and the man continuing to check out. Mueller said later, she heard the sound of an altercation around the corner from where she and Ruesch were.
Wenker said Marshall Police received a call from Walmart at 11:46 a.m. Saturday, because a male was refusing to remove his face mask. Before officers arrived on scene, they got a second call saying the confrontation had become physical. Security footage from Walmart showed the man wearing the swastika face mask had been approached by an unknown male, who punched him in the face and fled, Wenker said.
The couple in swastika masks “were cooperative with law enforcement,” and left Walmart, Wenker said. The man did not want to press charges against the person who punched him, Wenker said.
Wenker said the city of Marshall did not support or condone any statements or opinions expressed by the couple wearing the swastika masks.
Mueller said the couple’s reasons for wearing the masks didn’t make sense to her, and it wasn’t something she expected to see in Marshall.
“This is why education is important,” Ruesch said.
“We like to think that things like this are outliers,” Mueller said — but she said behavior like the couple’s is happening more often. Mueller she said she felt she had to do something.
“As a minister, I feel called to live out everything Jesus did,” including how he treated people outside the mainstream, Mueller said. “I feel the swastika stands against all of that.”