Home News and Features Anti-masker Allegedly Strikes Co-op Sign with Pickup

Anti-masker Allegedly Strikes Co-op Sign with Pickup

Customers wait outside Hunger Mountain Coop in Montpelier last year when social distancing was enforced before vaccines were available. Photo by Olivia White

Police seek help with identifying a person thought to be involved

Authorities seek help identifying someone who allegedly smashed into a large sign in front of Hunger Mountain Co-op Thursday, Dec. 16. The sandwich-board sign was sent flying into the busy entryway and appeared to nearly miss a customer.

It all happened around noon — one of the Co-op’s busiest times of day. Apparently a person entered the store and then walked through it without wearing a mask, according to General Manager Kari Bradley by phone Dec. 19. But when the person reached cashiers at the front, an employee asked him to put on a mask. At that point, the individual started cursing and gesturing with a middle finger before storming off. But it didn’t end there. According to surveillance video posted on the Montpelier Police Department Facebook page, about three seconds after a customer pushing a shopping cart walked very close to the sign, a pickup truck with a cap pulled out of a parking spot and swerved into the sign, flinging it toward the entryway.

Since this was a potentially dangerous form of anti-mask protest, Co-op leaders are seeking accountability.

“This (event) coincides with the timing that Montpelier Police Department is not getting involved in civil disputes, only criminal issues,” said General Manager Kari Bradley by phone Dec. 19. Bradley said unless a store owner wants to press charges, police won’t respond to civil conflicts relating to issues such as the recently re-enacted city-wide mask mandate. But in this rare case of an extreme act by a mask protester, Bradley said Co-op leaders feel there has to be a consequence to deter such behavior in the future.

This kind of protest has never happened at Hunger Mountain before, and only a handful of people have come in without masks, Bradley said. Most of the time when Co-op employees have had to ask someone to put on a mask, they comply. There have been very few cases where maskless people have seemed to be intentionally provocative — leading to heated confrontations — but store policy is to avoid debate.

Hunger Mountain Co-op is known among locals to be an early and strict adopter of COVID-19–related mask-wearing policies and other safety mitigation. “We were the first in 2020 to locally adopt a mask policy. Then we took masks off in July, but put them back on in August. People who come into the Co-op know,” Bradley said.

Calls to Sergeant Chris Truhan, the police sergeant handling the case, were not immediately returned. Readers are asked to please contact Sergeant Truhan at (802) 223-3445 with any information.

Click here for the link to Montpelier Police Department’s posting of the video.