Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.A renowned anti-masker attempted to zip tie the principal of a school in Tucson, Arizona on Thursday after she asked a student to quarantine because of close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.Kelly Walker, who owns Viva Coffee shop in Tucson, live streamed the entire incident on his business’s Instagram account, despite the fact that it was not his child at the center of the controversy. In fact, Walker’s children don’t even attend the school in question, but are home schooled instead.
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The incident was triggered when Walker was contacted by the father of one of the children being asked to quarantine at Mesquite Elementary School, a decision taken in line with advice from Pima County Health Department, the school said.In the message, the father said he was going to the school to “raise hell” and people should be “prepared for me to go to jail.”Walker decided to take it upon himself to address what he saw as an injustice, and in a video captured while he was driving to the school he called on others to join him at the elementary school to protest this decision.
Once at the school, the video shows Walker, the child’s father, and an unidentified third man walking around the perimeter of the building, with the unidentified man holding zip ties. Walker holds the zip ties up to the camera and says that he plans on making a citizen’s arrest if the police won’t take action.Seconds after discussing his plan to make a citizen’s arrest, Walker says school officials “can’t take the law into their own hands” by quarantining school children.
“One of the other individuals, not the parent, brought flex cuffs with them to the front office when they entered the office and their demand was that quarantine was illegal and that if the child was not allowed to resume normal school that they would make a citizen’s arrest,” John Carruth, superintendent of Vail Unified School District, told local outlet KOLD News 13.
When he finally gets inside the school, the coffee shop owner gets a chance to talk to the school’s principal, Diane Vargo, who is seen in the video listening patiently to Walker’s misinformation.At one point Walker claims, “I am a scientist who wrote about COVID for doctors and dentists all over the country.” There is no evidence to show that Walker is a scientist, though he has made this claim several times on his own Facebook page. After Vargo has listened to the trio, the video shows, she asks them to leave the school grounds. When they refuse, she leaves the office.Eventually Walker, the child’s father and the other protester left the school before officers from the Tucson Police Department arrived.Carruth said the school district hadn’t yet decided if it would press charges against the group.In recent weeks, frustration about school mask mandates and other aspects of how school boards are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic has grown into anger, with multiple school board meetings descending into violence.Last April, Walker himself attended a school board meeting in Vail, the school district that Mesquite Elementary School is in.Walker helped promote a protest at the meeting despite the fact his children are home schooled. He and the other protesters refused to wear masks and tried to push past security before the meeting was called off.Walker’s coffee shop was shut down temporarily last year for repeatedly failing to follow mask mandates. When it was allowed to reopen, Walker posted an image of Pepe the Frog, a right-wing meme used by white supremacists, with the caption “Sales Person of the Month.”Weeks after its reopening, the Tucson Weekly reported that fake Facebook accounts had begun posting personal information about people who had commented negatively about the coffee shop. Kelly himself weighed in on his official page, saying: “Well, I guess if someone is going to throw stones, there's the possibility some might ricochet.”