Anti-Vax A-Holes Blow Droplets All Over Staten Island Mall, FOR FREEDOM!
Saturday, a few dozen entitled jerks barged into the food court at the Staten Island Mall. They shouted “USA!" and waved anti-vaccine mandate signs. The media has described them as protesters instead of people who refuse to obey simple laws, but these creeps somehow see themselves as part of the next Civil Rights Movement, even though it's debatable whether they would've supported the first one at the time.
New York requires proof of vaccination against COVID-19 for anyone who wants to eat indoors. The pro-COVID crew believes this is somehow similar to when Southern restaurants wouldn't serve Black people, but Blackness is not a disease or even very contagious. COVID-19 is both, so this comparison quickly succumbs to a preventable death.
Now, during the real Civil Rights Movement, Black people, often students, would quietly sit down at at restaurants and coffee shops and politely request service. They didn't bum rush the joint like these assholes.
The jerks weren't even masked inside the food court where people were trying to eat. They loudly shouted, “My body, my choice," a grotesque co-opting of an expression in support of reproductive freedom. Do these assholes think people have abortions in public food courts?
One woman shouted, “Everybody, get food and eat. That is what we're here to do ... Go into the food court area and sit our butts down."
There was one older man wandering around wearing a “Q sent me" t-shirt, because, as my wife said, “we're living in a Borat sketch." A young man kept saying “All we did ..." without finishing what we're sure was a well-considered thought. Here's what we think he and his anti-vaccine buddies actually achieved: They likely greatly increased their own exposure to COVID-19 while jeopardizing the safety of any immunocompromised people or unvaccinated children in the vicinity.
Diners at a food court didn't come for a protest rally. They certainly weren't in the mood for maskless morons clapping their hands in unison like they're at at a sporting event and shouting, “Fuck Joe Biden!" One old guy added “Trump won!" to the anvil-head chorus, and he wore a "Trump Won" shirt as further evidence of his disconnect from observable reality.
Black Civil Rights protesters at sit-ins didn't scream politically charged rhetoric and intentionally disturb the customers and staff. This was for a few reasonss, but most importantly, they weren't spoiled brats who couldn't adjust to society telling them “no" for the first time. However, they also didn't want to give the racists a legitimate reason to throw them out. They just behaved like sensible people ordering a cheeseburger, and the establishment's inhumane response underscored how evil the racist law was.
Civil rights activist and Freedom Rider Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, who's still with us and as badass as ever, described the scene at the sit-ins, which were serious business, not a self-indulgent stunt. They faced arrest and bodily harm.
"We got pulled off our stools and were dragged up to the front of the store ... the main weapons were whatever was sitting on the counter. This was everything from vinegar to pepper to sometimes a fist."
Mulholland is white, but she willingly put herself in harm's way along with her fellow Black protesters. She was inspired to service at an early age when, as a child, she'd ventured into the Black part of town and noticed how uncomfortable her presence made the residents. Her whiteness instilled them with fear, but instead of relishing that power, she rejected it.
The anti-vaxxers who crashed the food court at the Staten Island Mall clearly enjoyed the disruption they caused and the fear they invoked among vaccinated patrons. Their demonstration had nothing to do with freedom, and everything to do with feeling unjustly powerful in their ignorance.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."