Bolen Books employees praised for handling of anti-mask group in Victoria, BC store

Bolen Books employees praised for handling of anti-mask group in Victoria, BC store
WatchTwo employees at Bolen Books in Victoria are being praised for their handling of an anti-mask group.

Bolen Books employees are being praised for their handling of an anti-mask group after a video made by the protestors in the Victoria store hit social media.

In a video posted to YouTube by Erika Rouby, a woman is heard arguing with two employees at Hillside Shopping Centre’s Bolen Books, both seen in the video, while the employees are trying to persuade a group of five people to leave the store after they refused to wear masks, a company policy.

“The only alternative at this point is to call the police,” one of the employees said.

“OK. Or we’ll just buy the books quietly and go,” the woman not seen on camera replied.

Rouby wrote in the YouTube description “Tyranny, segregation and discrimination October 11th, 2020 at around 4:15 pm, Hillside Shopping Centre, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.” 

Bolen Books manager Colin Holt said the group walked right past an employee stationed at one of the store’s entrances.

“They refused to stop at the door, where we offer masks. They refused to stop. They came in. They picked out a few titles, and because they were not following our policies, our supervisor asked them to leave the store. They refused to do that,” he said.

The two employees remained calm while explaining to the group the store has options, such as early hours during the week for people who don’t want to shop with a mask on.

“It’s not illegal to give you an option. You are refusing to take the option,” an employee says in the video.

“Because the option is also illegal. And we’re not complying to any of that. So please just let us buy the books and we’ll go. all we want to do is buy the books and we’ll go,” the woman said.

Bolen’s says it accommodates people who can’t or won’t wear a mask with special store hours. But the group refused, spending almost an hour walking around the store until the confrontation at the cash register where the staff offer to call the owner of Bolen Books, Samantha Bolen.

Edwin Hodge, professor of sociology at the University of Victoria, said the point of the protest is to provoke, and then act outraged while filming the encounter. He said the employees were clearly unhappy with the situation, but handled it professionally.

“They reacted with far more calm and grace than I would have in that situation.  It’s clear that they know they have no ability to change the outcome for these people. And that is exactly the point,” Hodge said.

Holt said the whole point of the mask policy is to ensure that everyone is safe.

“No employee deserves the stress that they were put through in a situation like that. It would be very sad to think there are people going around specifically to cause a disruption like that,” Holt said.

The group eventually left the store, according to Bolen Books.

READ MORE: B.C. reports 155 new COVID-19 cases, include 1 in Island Health

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