Police Break-Up Face Mask Protest at Texas Mall, Arrest One Man

An "unplanned but organized protest" by anti-maskers at a Texas mall ended in one man being arrested last week, police have said.

San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) said mall security and an off-duty officer were confronted by members of the group at North Star Mall last Tuesday.

Eric Matthew Braden, aged 39, was arrested as officers dispersed the small group. He was later charged with criminal trespass on private property.

Cell phone footage posted on social media appeared to show people waving a U.S. flag and singing the national anthem as officers made the arrest.

In a statement, SAPD said members of the group were given a criminal trespass warning and told to leave, before Braden attempted to "escalate the situation."

"Security and the off-duty officer had to take one male into custody who was attempting to escalate the situation, but the remaining participants left without further incident," police said.

Braden was transported to University Hospital after "complaints of a pre-existing back injury," SAPD added.

Shoppers are required to wear face coverings at North Star. In response to the protests, the mall said it has "zero tolerance for this behavior on our property."

"We ask that our community comply and wear facemasks in our shopping center to help slow the spread of COVID-19," its officials told local TV station KENS 5.

A small group rebuffing mask-wearing guidelines at North Star Mall clashed with security, resulting in a chaotic Christmas showdown.#kens5eyewitness https://t.co/LHq7005kb4

— Marvin Hurst (@MHurstKENS5) December 28, 2020

A mask mandate remains in place for Bexar County, where San Antonio is located.

Judge Nelson Wolff issued the mandate in June for businesses, their employees and customers using commercial establishment.

Since the pandemic began, Texas has witnessed more than 1.7 million cases of COVID-19 and 27,038 related deaths, according to John Hopkins University data.

North Star Mall's representatives and SAPD have been contacted for comment.

U.S. public health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continue to urge the public to wear face masks.

It follows the publication of scientific studies that found face coverings can help prevent those wearing the mask from spreading COVID-19 to others.

Despite the official advice and evidence, several protests have been held across the U.S. against the wearing of face masks.

In a separate incident earlier this month, another shopper in California used a megaphone inside a Costco store to criticize the use of face coverings.

The unidentified man was seen on top of a clothing display at the store in Tustin, shouting: "We have got to stand up for ourselves...It's a beautiful day outside and what are we doing, covering up with our masks."

Masks
File photo: A handwritten face mask sign is displayed near a social distancing sign on the entrance to a supermarket as the city continues Phase 4 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on September 28, 2020 in New York City. Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images