Nevada City man cited, banned from BriarPatch after refusing to wear mask
David Poirier wasn’t looking to become the latest lightning rod in Nevada County’s mask wars. But when he penned a Facebook post about receiving a citation for refusing to wear a mask at BriarPatch Food Co-op, he ignited a fire storm of comments, both pro and con.
“People have accused me of wanting to get attention,” Poirier said Friday, calling the Facebook fight “brutal.”
“They don’t know me. I’m a very private, quiet person.”
Poirier said he is a member of the BriarPatch Food Co-op and has been shopping there exclusively for several years due to health issues that mandate a strict, all-organic diet.
He added that he has chosen not to wear a mask for a number of reasons, and had been trying to be considerate of others and maintaining a social distance when shopping. Curbside shopping was not an option he considered because, he explained, he doesn’t usually know exactly what he will buy and he likes picking each item out himself.
“I just don’t feel comfortable wearing a mask,” he said. “I don’t feel it’s going to keep me safe. … I’m not buying into all the hype, especially in this area, with a low level of cases. I think our risks as individuals is very low if we are smart and keep our distance.”
Poirier said he had gone to BriarPatch last week and saw a sign posted at the door mandating mask-wearing and became concerned. When he was not allowed to come in, he spoke to the manager on duty and asked for the general manager’s card. His call was not returned, he said.
By Wednesday, Poirier said, he was running low on food. His decision to test the mandate that night wasn’t pre-planned, he insisted.
“I knew I was going (to BriarPatch) at some point and I wasn’t going to leave voluntarily,” he said. “I did want to make a stand. … I can’t afford to go to jail, but I was willing to do it, I did have that thought in my mind that could happen.”
Poirier stressed that while he wanted to stand up for his rights, he wasn’t trying to egg on BriarPatch’s employees.
“I couldn’t imagine, really, that they would call the police on me,” he said.
A Grass Valley police officer was dispatched to the store at 7:23 p.m. for a report of a customer refusing to wear a mask and refusing to leave the store, said Lt. Joe Matteoni. The situation was mediated, with the store agreeing to allow Poirier to finish his shopping after he told the officer he needed groceries that were only sold at BriarPatch.
But the officer was called back less than 20 minutes later.
Failed mediation leads to citizen’s arrest
The store manager reported that Poirier was being confrontational with customers and employees, and wanted to make a citizen’s arrest, Matteoni said.
Poirier disputes that account, saying he stopped to talk to a woman who approached him to ask a question about having to wear a mask.
The manager and another employee confronted him, telling him to stop socializing and finish his shopping, he said, adding, “They were not nice about it.”
The male employee argued with him and was rude, Poirier said. After the man abruptly walked away, Poirier followed him and complained about how he was being treated. A third employee then began following him around the store, he said.
“The officer came back and told me I had to leave or I would be cited for trespassing,” Poirier said.
According to Matteoni, Poirier told the officer he was being harassed by the BriarPatch employees and wouldn’t leave the store unless they made him.
Poirier was walked out of the store and issued a citation, Matteoni said, adding he will not be allowed to return.
BriarPatch Food Co-op General Manager Chris Maher declined to comment on the incident that occurred with Poirier.
“We know that (Poirier) was acting in the spirit of protecting his own health and that of his community,” Maher said in an emailed statement, adding, “BriarPatch is committed to providing our community with the freshest, highest quality groceries, supporting our local food supply and nonprofits and creating a welcoming and safe environment for our shoppers.”
For his part, Poirier said he doesn’t regret standing up for an issue of personal liberty — not just for himself but for many others as well.
And he doesn’t regret putting his experience out on social media, even though the level of online aggression has been disconcerting.
“I can’t take any of it personally,” he said. “They’re not attacking me, it’s (about) our own fears. … Both sides have the same fear, just from a different perspective.”
Poirier said he doesn’t blame those who are attacking him and each other out of fear-based anger during such stressful times.
“It’s a forum where they are starting to let out what they feel,” he said. “It’s a good thing, it can be therapeutic — although that wasn’t my intention. I hope something positive comes from this.”
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at email@example.com.
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