GREEN BAY – A Green Bay chiropractor has drawn at least 17,000 views on a Facebook live video in which he tells followers they should use pepper spray on people who ask them to wear a mask at a store.
Police say using a weapon for that purpose is illegal.
Patrick Flynn, a chiropractor, told viewers to “Mace” people who follow a customer and request that they wear a mask. He implied it was legal to spray “anyone” who continues to push mask wearing at a store.
“It's quite simple,” Flynn said in the video, which he recorded with his wife and posted to Facebook on Dec. 6. “You Mace them. … They are stalking you and they're being a predator, and you should Mace them. Not a joke. Anybody that follows you through the store that way — and there's legality on that, that's the cool part.”
Green Bay Police Lt. Brad Strouf said Flynn is wrong.
A store owner and staff members can ask customers to wear a mask because the business is on private property.
“We no doubt would get called if in fact a situation like that took place and an employee was assaulted by a customer. And we'd end up almost certainly arresting the customer, dependent upon any other factors,” Strouf said. “But simply being followed and asked to put a mask on would not give somebody legal authority to use a weapon against that person.”
It's also illegal to shoot pepper spray at another customer who asks you to mask up, Strouf said.
He advised people who refuse to wear masks, which are intended to protect others from COVID-19, to pursue other options if they think they're being harassed — such as expressing your concern to the store manager, simply leaving the business, or contacting the police if you think the situation has gotten so threatening a law is broken.
“While we certainly are in the business of protecting people and doing everything we can to maintain peace and order, I would not suggest that pepper spray be used to ward off someone who is simply ‘following' someone and asking them to wear a mask,” Strouf said. “This would most likely not turn out well for the user of the spray.”
Green Bay police are not enforcing the state mask mandate, Strouf said, because it is not a part of state statutes. However, if a store owner asks a customer to leave the premises and calls the police to escort a customer off the premises, officers would do so.
This isn't the first time Flynn has drawn attention for telling people to flout COVID-19 safety measures.
Brown County Public Health sent a letter to his alternative health and chiropractic business, Wellness Way, in response to multiple public complaints that he encourages people not to wear masks. The Nov. 17 letter included common recommendations on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The letter noted that as of an Aug. 1 order by Gov. Tony Evers, people older than age 5, including employees unless exempt, are required to wear face coverings while indoors outside their own homes, including when patronizing a business. The governor recently extended the mask mandate to Jan. 19.
In bold, the county's letter to Wellness Way says, “Our mission is to educate and promote compliance, but if additional complaints are received, BCPH will take whatever further actions it deems necessary and appropriate.”
Brown County Public Health received three complaints about an event Flynn held on Oct. 1 at Celebration Church because people attended without wearing masks, as shown and described in Facebook videos. The event description indicates Flynn showed an anti-vaccination film and brought Andrew Wakefield, a former British doctor who was barred from practicing after spreading anti-vaccine rhetoric.
Flynn declined to comment when the Green Bay Press-Gazette reached out for comment in October regarding the event and on Dec. 8 regarding his latest Facebook video.
Jeff Flynt, Brown County deputy executive, said in a Dec. 8 email to the Press-Gazette that the county has not taken any further actions and has not sent anymore letters to Wellness Way.
Flynt said no known positive COVID-19 cases were traced back to the Oct. 1 event, so no further actions were warranted.
Flynn has continued to organize in-person events without masking or social distancing enforcement. In his video, he promoted a Dec. 21 Christmas event with Santa, with no COVID-19 safeguards, and said he would have armed security present in case people who oppose his ideas try to disrupt the gathering.
Contact Nusaiba Mizan at (920)-431-8310 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @nusaiblah.