PHOENIX — Videos showing a group of maskless protesters decrying COVID-19 health guidelines at Phoenix's Christown Spectrum Mall went viral on Friday as Arizona, along with the rest of the country, continue to see a record number of new cases.
Several videos, filmed at different stores including Target and Walmart, showed the group walking through as some waved American flags and held signs opposing masks and other guidelines.
Jenny Guzman, one of the Target shoppers who took video of the protest, told The Arizona Republic, part of the USA TODAY Network, that she noticed people shouting near a group of Target security guards and drew closer to see what the commotion was about.
"I turned to look and then I saw people coming in, not wearing masks, with signs and a big giant American flag chanting and yelling — demanding that people take their masks off and just saying fallacies about wearing masks," Guzman said.
Guzman said that after she took the video, a teenage girl confronted her and demanded Guzman explain science to her. Guzman said the girl didn't elaborate on what kind of science she wanted, but shrugged her off as the girl followed and grilled her until another shopper pulled the girl away.
Guzman said she didn't see the store's security really intervene as protesters marched throughout the aisles before leaving five-to-10 minutes later. She said the experience made her worry a little about her safety. She left the store without completing her shopping.
"I just don't understand how these people think that... They're endangering people," Guzman said. "But I think they're so selfish that it doesn't matter to them."
She added that the uncomfortable experience meant she was unlikely to return to that particular Target for some time, to avoid a repeat experience.
Sgt. Maggie Cox, a spokesperson for the Phoenix Police Department, said the department was aware of the demonstration but didn't make any arrests.
Phoenix, like most municipalities in Arizona, has instituted a mask mandate requiring people over the age of 2 to wear masks when social distancing isn't possible. Most stores must require masks to operate under this mandate.
Public health officials have urged people to wear masks when out in public and remain at home when possible to avoid further spread of the virus that has killed roughly 313,000 people in the U.S. Arizona has 7,819 known deaths as of Friday according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Viral videos of anti-mask protest at Target, Walmart stores in Phoenix