Written by Konnor Long (News Writer)
On February 17th, a video went viral which showed a group of mask-less shoppers collectively entering a Santa Cruz Trader Joe’s against the will of employees and other shoppers. The events gained particular notoriety after a video was filmed and uploaded to YouTube by one of the participants of the event, the video garnered upwards of 40,000 views in less than a week.
The video, which was first shared on a Santa Cruz Reddit, garnered an intense negative reception from participants of the forum. Donning the name Operation Moneydrop, the group of individuals participating in the event published a manifesto on their YouTube channel, as well as on their now public Blogspot the same day. It declares that participants should “assert [their] right to shop mask-free without waiting in a social distancing line.” The name of the collection comes from their motto “Drop your Cash & Go”, As the current rules and regulations of stores in Santa Cruz County often deny maskless individuals the right to purchase from their stores.
Certain members of the forum have pointed out that the taking video documents trespassing, burglary, larceny, and robbery in the footage, as per the non-compliance of the Trader Joe’s Staff.
One anonymous individual on the forum, claiming to have been an employee working on the day of the event (February 13th) stated “we refuse to serve them, they threw money on the register and left with the items that were not paid for.”
The official “Cash Drop” Youtube channel showcases multiple instances of maskless demonstrations which hadn’t previously been recognized as a part of a cohesive demonstration. As vaccinations are being distributed amongst the county, concerns among citizens are rising about the ability of Santa Cruz citizens to demonstrate herd immunity. Many anti-mask citizens have voiced their intent to not take the vaccination on certain blog spots.
The perpetrators of this demonstration as seen in the footage, are confirmed to be the same individuals who have propped up “free hugs” demonstrations near Lighthouse Field intermittently since the Covid-19 pandemic began in Santa Cruz.
Law enforcement was called upon on the day at the demonstration, officers had not arrived on site until after the events of the video had been filmed and all members had left the premises. When asked about the event, Santa Cruz police Chief Andy Mills said“, We’re past the point of discussion, we’re at the point of enforcement.” This comes shortly after other local departments such as the Capitola Police Department laid down a more extensive and hands-on approach to combating anti-mask demonstrations following the arrest of a maskless activist who had been caught trespassing at the Capitola Post Office without a face covering.
“My concern is that they seem to be getting more aggressive,” Mills had stated in a blog post responding to various citizen questions and concerns. In the blog post, he confirms that no members of the Trader Joe’s stunt have been apprehended, but that “If the violation continues, officers can book them into jail.”
As of this week, Santa Cruz County has reported more than 14,000 Covid-19 cases, with over 170 local deaths occurring as a result.