Maskless protesters chant "USA" inside a food court Staten Island.(Screenshot via FreedomNews.TV)
Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.A group of about two dozen maskless protesters stormed a food court in Staten Island to protest vaccination mandates, before just kind of dispersing to go eat food after no one seemed to care.
The group entered the Staten Island Mall’s food court loudly cheering and clapping, carrying an American flag, and chanting “USA,” according to video posted to Twitter by the independent outlet FreedomNews.tv that has been viewed more than 2 million times as of Monday.“Everybody, go get food and eat. That is what we’re here to do!” one woman told the group. “We’re going to meet over there and go into the food court area and sit our butts down and stay as long as we like!”
In August, New York City began requiring proof of at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine from residents who want to dine indoors."Vaccinated or unvaccinated, we are all one people. We shouldn't be carrying papers or showing papers because we live in America,” one woman said in footage posted by FreedomNews.tv.
“We’re not against the vaccines; we’re against the mandates,” another woman said. A crowd also chanted “Fuck Joe Biden.” On the whole, Staten Island is much more conservative than the rest of New York City. In the 2020 presidential election, former President Donald Trump won 57 percent of the borough’s votes. Though Staten Island is slightly more vaccinated than Brooklyn or the Bronx, its vaccination rate is still below average compared with the rest of the city, according to city data. Anti-mandate protests have increased in recent months even as the country saw one of its worst waves of the pandemic so far, including at schools and hospitals. Following internet rumors about a trucker-led “Patriot Shutdown” on highways Monday, police and prosecutors in Ohio said that anyone intentionally trying to block highway traffic would be arrested and charged. "I want to be perfectly clear," Hamilton County, Ohio Prosecuting Attorney Joe Deters wrote in a statement. "Anyone who attempts to shut down the highways in Hamilton County will be removed from their vehicles, charged with felony disrupting public services and they will go to jail. “To those who claim to be supportive of law enforcement — law enforcement is not with you,” Deters added. “This would pose a serious danger for our first responders and the community at large."As of mid-morning Monday, however, the Ohio State Highway Patrol said there were “no known issues at this time.”