Should people who don’t wear face masks in public spaces be held accountable for potentially putting others at risk? A recent incident in a New York City subway has left lots of people debating this very important issue.
It all started when 22-year-old Kaleemah Rozier, who was traveling with her young child in the Atlantic Avenue/Barclays Center subway station, was asked by police to wear her face mark correctly before entering the subway. Although she and her 5-year-old son had face masks on, they were not covering their noses and mouths for some reason.
Rather than taking the police’s request for the potentially life-saving move that it was, she chose to respond with ugliness, using vulgar language to respond to the officers and repeatedly refusing to comply even after being asked politely three times to place her and her son’s masks correctly.
She can be heard in video footage cursing at the officers and yelling while being escorted out of the subway station. She also threatened to cough on the officers.
She can then be seen slapping away an officer’s hands, which is when the police decided to take her to the ground and handcuff her. Rozier was charged with disorderly conduct, harassment and resisting arrest.
The NYPD is defending its officers, whom they say acted “appropriately and with respect.” However, the outrage generated by the incident has led to a change in police procedure, with ABC7 NY reporting that NYC cops are no longer allowed to arrest people simply for not wearing masks.
The woman involved is planning a civil suit because she believes there was a racial element to her arrest. She has also expressed outrage that officers arrested her in front of her child; apparently the fact that she defied police orders in front of the kid doesn’t bother her a bit – never mind the fact that all of this could have been avoided had she simply put the mask she already had around her neck in the proper position.
After video footage of the incident went viral, Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted about the incident, writing “Face coverings are important to protect everybody – they’re not optional. But no one wants to see an interaction turn into this.”
Posting a video of what went down, he added: “We’ve made progress with de-escalation. This isn’t it.”
De Blasio has understandably been vocal about face coverings. New York City has been hit extremely hard by the virus, due in no small part to the many cramped spaces packed with people there like the subway where this incident took place. The city has seen nearly 200,000 confirmed cases of the virus and 15,789 deaths.
People reacting violently to the idea of protecting others
The news has been full of incidents lately involving people responding with violence after being asked to wear a mask. For example, in Aurora, Colorado, a man shot a Waffle House employee after being asked to use a mask to get a take-out order.
When the cook told 27-year-old Kelvin Watson that he wouldn’t serve him without a mask, Watson pulled out a gun and threatened him with it. The following night, he returned without a mask yet again, and the same cook refused to serve him. Watson then slapped the cook across the face and shot him in the chest or abdomen as he tried to run away. The 27-year-old has been charged with attempted first-degree murder.
While not wearing a mask may not get you arrested in New York City these days, it will in some parts of China. In Singapore, it could earn you a fine, while everyone aged 6 and above must wear a mask in public places in Spain.
Whether it’s a legal obligation in your area to wear a mask or not, it just makes sense to do so. Face masks aren’t just there to protect you from exposure to coronavirus – they’re also there to protect everyone else. Some people may not care whether they live or die during this pandemic, but they shouldn’t be putting those who do value their lives at risk because of their ignorance.
Sources for this article include: