A group that created hundreds of face masks to help protect protesters across the country from the coronavirus said law enforcement officials seized the masks from the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).
In posts on Twitter and Instagram, the Movement for Black Lives explained that hundreds of masks emblazoned with “Stop killing Black people” and “Defund police” on the front were confiscated by an unnamed law enforcement agency.
The organization shared a photo of the note it received from USPS on Twitter. When the group checked the USPS website, there was an alert saying, "Seized by Law Enforcement” with an additional message that said they should contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for more information about the package.
— Movement 4 Black Lives (@Mvmnt4BlkLives) June 5, 2020
On Instagram, Movement Ink wrote, "Law enforcement has seized these masks and are not stating why!"
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Update! Law enforcement has seized these masks and are not stating why! When your called to support you step up or step back. Sending energy and prayers to those on the front lines! Right on community appreciation to all of you interested in supporting please hit up @thepalmtreepapi if your interested in supporting! @mvmnt4blklives
HuffPost spoke with Rene Quinonez of Movement Ink, who spent days making the masks with his family, about what took place.
“I have shipped a lot of stuff before. It’s an inside joke that I’m always shipping a ton of stuff, usually next-day or two-day and paying some ridiculous fees. These guys know that I ship apparel. There was nothing out of the ordinary,” Quinonez told HuffPost.
According to HuffPost, the group put up thousands of dollars to send 500 masks from Oakland, California, to Washington, St. Louis, New York City and Minneapolis.
There has been widespread concern about the potential for a resurgence of COVID-19, which kept millions at home before the demonstrations began.
On Thursday, CDC director Robert Redfield told the House Appropriations Committee that he was worried because many of the places with the most protesters had not fully controlled the virus.
He also said the tear gas and chemicals the police and National Guard are deploying against protesters will make the outbreak worse.
“The first thing that I would like to see is those individuals who have partaken in these peaceful protests or been out protesting, particularly if they are in metropolitan areas that really haven’t controlled the outbreak to the extent we want — Minneapolis happens to be one that is still having significant transmission, D.C. is another one — we really want those individuals to highly consider being evaluated and get tested,” Redfield said.
He added that the chemicals used by police were making people cough, thus allowing any present virus to spread among the people protesting.
“We have advocated strongly the ability to have face coverings and masks available to protesters so that they can at least have those coverings…I’d like to pass on this comment to the next [coronavirus] task force meeting,” Redfield said.
Despite the warnings, police forces across the country have continued to use tear gas against peaceful demonstrators, and there have been dozens of videos showing police destroying medical supplies brought to help those protesting.
In addition to local efforts by police to disrupt health precautions for protesters, Attorney General William Barr has faced searing criticism for continuing to mobilize law enforcement agencies against demonstrators, as Blavity previously reported.
Despite concerns raised by lawmakers, Barr has allowed the country's law enforcement agencies, even including the DEA and prison enforcement, to take unprecedented measures in disrupting the protests.
“Now, it appears they want to ensure that people who protest are susceptible to the same deadly pandemic that they have failed miserably at stopping. The continued surveillance and disruption of social movements under this administration is as chilling as it is dangerous. It should be roundly condemned.” Chelsea Fuller, a spokesperson for the Movement for Black Lives, told HuffPost in a statement.
Quinonez reiterated in his interview with HuffPost that the masks were designed to protect demonstrators and expressed confusion about why law enforcement would endanger protesters by confiscating them.
“I just don’t understand it. It’s just really blowing my mind. We’re tired, but we’re going to try to rally some support and figure out how to replace these masks and how to support the movement. This isn’t a weapon. It’s more about safety. We’re trying to figure out how to keep our community safe,” Quinonez added.