(Updated at 9:30 p.m.) A man filmed children wearing masks at a local playground while accusing their parents of “child abuse.”
The encounter happened on Tuesday at the Rocky Run Park playground near Courthouse. It was caught on video by one of the parents.
“Look at these kids — child abuse, child abuse, suffocation, suffocation,” the man says while filming the playground with his smartphone, after claiming that he runs “a very popular YouTube channel.”
“You understand that most people are vaccinated right now?” the man says to the woman filming him. “Why are these kids in masks outside? You understand how harmful that is to their mental welfare?”
“Leave me alone, you’re stressing my baby,” the woman responds.
The idea that having kids wear masks during the pandemic is a form of abuse was popularized by Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
“Your response when you see children wearing masks when they play should be no different from your response to seeing someone beat a kid at Walmart,” the host told viewers in April.
So far, only children ages 12 and up are eligible for vaccinations. While children can be infected and get sick from COVID-19, deaths have been relatively uncommon — 300 reported Covid-related fatalities among those under the age of 18 during the course of the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The husband of one of the moms at the park who was harassed says police were called but the man had already left when they arrived.
“The person who took the video is our friend,” he tells ARLnow. “All our children have been playing together since the pandemic and all wear masks, even though we the adults are fully vaccinated. This guy approached my wife and her friends when the kids got back to sip water.”
“He start yelling at them, that they were doing ‘child abuse’ for ‘forcing’ our kids to wear masks, and saying all that conspiracy theory speech,” the husband continued. “He start filming our kids, and yelling… and as you can see in the video all children start running away from him. My wife call me and also called the police. Police arrived but he was already gone.”
“He was riding one of those electric skateboards and took off,” the husband added. “Cops were not too concerned said filming kids is not illegal, but advice not to confront him. Another friend said same guy harassed her with his two children by Courthouse Plaza, and someone in Nextdoor said she was approached by the same guy near Whole Foods Clarendon.”
The incident outside the Clarendon Whole Foods took place last week, according to a post on Twitter. The man reportedly called a woman a “child abuser” in front of her mask-wearing child.
Reached for comment about the park incident, the Arlington County Police Department said the man’s actions did not amount to a crime.
“At approximately 5:17 p.m. on May 25, police were dispatched to the 1100 block of N. Barton Street for the report of disorderly conduct,” ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. “Upon arrival, the reporting party advised that a male subject had been yelling and filming children playing inside a park. The subject had left the scene prior to the arrival of police and a search of the area concluded with negative results. The investigation determined no crime had occurred.”