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Costa Mesa mask mandate offender cited at local grocery store, arrested on suspicion of obstruction

A sign posted on Friday along Fair Drive, across from City Hall, in Costa Mesa.
A sign on Fair Drive in Costa Mesa warns residents of a $100 fine being imposed upon people caught in public without a face mask. On Tuesday, a man was cited during an altercation at a local grocery store.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photgrapher)

Four months after the city of Costa Mesa began warning citizens anyone caught without a face mask would be fined $100 — a law some in the community criticized for its lack of enforcement — an unmasked individual has been punished.

Costa Mesa Police Department spokeswoman Roxi Fyad confirmed a man was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of violating the city’s municipal code and obstructing a police officer. Both offenses are considered misdemeanors.

The man reportedly entered a grocery store on the 1800 block Newport Boulevard at around 8:30 p.m. without a face mask, police said, in violation of the store’s policy and a citywide order issued in March by City Manager Lori Ann Farrell Harrison, acting as the city’s director of emergency services during the pandemic.

“We were called to the location,” Fyad said Friday, indicating someone at the grocery store contacted authorities. “The person was uncooperative and confrontational with officers — there was no chance of him putting on a mask or leaving the store, despite the officers’ repeated requests for him to comply.”

Fyad did not wish to release the individual’s name, age or city of residence due to the nature of the incident but did confirm that, to her knowledge, this was the first police citation of an individual pertaining to Costa Mesa’s mask order.

Costa Mesa police officials clarified, however, that the department has worked alongside the city’s code enforcement team responding to calls for service regarding local businesses that may be in violation of COVID-19 mandates, and citations for failure to wear masks have been issued in some cases.

Requiring facial coverings in public was one of several orders issued during a local coronavirus emergency declared March 12 by Farrell Harrison. State and local codes grant governors and city managers, respectively, the authority to issue emergency orders intended to have the force and effect of law.

Provisions of Costa Mesa’s municipal code related to disaster relief state it is a misdemeanor offense to “do any act forbidden by any lawful rule or regulation issued pursuant to this title, if such act is of such a nature as to give or be likely to give assistance to the enemy or to imperil the lives or property of inhabitants of this city, or to prevent, hinder or delay the defense or protection thereof.”

City officials embarked on a social media campaign in July with posts reading “Don’t face a fine. Wear a mask,” and “No Face Mask = $100 Fine.” Several residents criticized the law’s toothlessness on social media, posting photos of bared faces and inviting police to cite them.

Speaking Friday, Fyad did not name the grocery store where Tuesday’s arrest occurred, but the block and street provided coincide with Mother’s Market, where protesters staged an Aug. 15 anti-mask rally.

During that rally two women entered the store without face coverings and would not leave, Costa Mesa police reported on Twitter following the incident. Fyad confirmed Friday the two individuals were arrested, not for their refusal to wear masks but for trespassing.

“We were required to make the arrest at the request of store security,” she said of the Aug. 15 incident.

Anti-mask protesters in Costa Mesa in August.
Anti-mask protesters demonstrate in Costa Mesa in August.
(Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)

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