In the past few weeks, Fresno police have been called to break up anti-mask protests at businesses like Trader Joe’s and Sprouts. At a news conference Monday, Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer spoke about a weekend protest at Sprouts, which resulted in one person being cited.
He says officers can only intervene by issuing a citation for trespassing. After that, violators who refuse to cooperate will be arrested.
“If a store employee says that a customer cannot be in a business and they choose to remain, it is trespassing. And the Fresno Police Department will respond, and they will enforce that violation of a trespass,” he said.
Dyer says it’s the same group of people organizing the protests. He advised targeted businesses to establish zones where protesters can gather nearby, but not be in a position to block entrances.
Although there is a state mandate to wear masks in public, Fresno police don’t have the authority to enforce it. Dyer says it’s up to businesses to set their own rules, but he pleaded for patrons to respect the rules.
“I’m just asking people, can you just please abide by the mask rule in our city? And if there is a business that requires a mask, would you just wear it? Whether it’s in a store or going into a restaurant. We do not need any more confrontations like we’ve had this weekend,” he said.
Chuck Van Fleet, President of the Fresno Chapter of the California Restaurant Association says businesses have to enforce mask rules. However, it’s a tough role to play for hospitality workers who are used to making every customer feel welcome.
“If we don't do it then we’re in violation and the last thing we need is code enforcement or someone to come in and hold us in violation because somebody’s beliefs are that they don’t have to wear a mask,” he said.
Van Fleet says bringing back indoor dining is a step in the right direction, but noted it’s not nearly enough for restaurant owners to make a profit.
“We have to get to 50% indoor dining at some point in order for us to survive,” he said.
Right now, Fresno County is operating in the purple tier with an 18% positivity case rate. Driving that number down to 7% will allow indoor dining to reopen.