The mayor of an Oklahoma city amended an emergency declaration requiring customers to wear face masks while inside businesses after store employees were threatened with violence.
Stillwater Mayor Will Joyce announced the change Friday afternoon, less than 24 hours after the declaration took effect.
“In the short time beginning on May 1, 2020, that face coverings have been required for entry into stores/restaurants, store employees have been threatened with physical violence and showered with verbal abuse," City Manager Norman McNickle said in a statement. "In addition, there has been one threat of violence using a firearm."
Joyce said in a series of tweets that he expected some pushback on requiring face masks but did not think there would be physical confrontations with employees and threatening phone calls to City Hall.
"I hate that our businesses and their employees had to deal with abuse today, and I apologize for putting them in that position," the mayor wrote.
"I am not the kind of person who backs down from bullies, but I also will not send someone else to fight the battle for me," he added in a second tweet.
Joyce said face masks are still required for store employees and are now "strongly recommended" for customers.
"To the people who resort to threats and intimidation when asked to take a simple step to protect your community: shame on you. Our freedom as Americans comes with responsibilities, too," the mayor tweeted. "We must find common ground and work together to deal with the circumstances our society is facing. Whether or not we agree on the details, we have to find ways to cooperate in the task before us."
McNickle said that many of the people who objected to wearing the masks have "the mistaken belief the requirement is unconstitutional." He said it's upsetting that while people have the right to exercise their beliefs, they are also putting others at risk.
The city manager pointed out that face masks and coverings are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state's health department to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
"The wearing of face coverings is little inconvenience to protect both the wearer and anyone with whom they have contact," McNickle said, condemning those who threatened violence. "It is unfortunate and distressing that those who refuse and threaten violence are so self-absorbed as to not follow what is a simple show of respect and kindness to others.
He said businesses still have the right to require customers to wear a face mask or covering to enter.