By Ken Stone
More than a month after a couple wore small Nazi flags over their face masks while grocery shopping in Santee, the Sheriff’s Department announced no charges would be filed.
That was news to Dustin Hart, who posted video of his May 7 encounter with deputies at the Food 4 Less as part of a protest against state lockdown orders.
“No one has contacted me from the [Sheriff’s] Department,” he said Friday after news broke the day before of no charges. “No one from Channel 10 has contacted me,” which posted an early report.
On Monday, Hart told Times of San Diego that he still hasn’t officially learned “one way or the other. No one has contacted me about this other than you.”
In any case, he contends he didn’t commit a crime, “although I was discriminated against. I learned that LGBTQ+ are a protected class of citizens above normal citizens and that the homosexual fascists like the manager at Food 4 Less are more than happy to discriminate.”
According to sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Ricardo Lopez, deputies from the Santee Sheriff’s Station responded to the store after management asked the couple to remove the masks.
“They refused,” Lopez said. “Deputies contacted the man who told them, ‘I’m not here promoting some Nazi propaganda. I’m here peacefully protesting against the Governor’s insane lockdown.'”
Lopez said deputies explained to the couple that Food 4 Less had the right to refuse service to customers.
“The deputies then asked the couple if they would be willing to remove their masks, and they did,” Lopez said in a news release.
On Friday, Lopez was asked if he could confirm that his agency hadn’t contacted Hart about no charges being planned.
“Sorry, I do not have that information,” Lopez replied.
Hart was queried the same day by Times of San Diego.
Do you plan to wear your Nazi-flag in public again? he was asked.
“No, but if it is necessary I will,” he said via email Monday. “As long as this clown world continues to bend to hoaxes and fake news, I will continue to find new and creative ways to bring memes to the real world.”
He said he wasn’t taking part in any Black Lives Matter counterprotests as have surfaced in Santee.
But he didn’t shy from expressing an opinion.
“BLM is nothing more than a communist funded hate group created and deployed to create division in America,” Hart said. “If anyone wanted to talk about black lives mattering they would talk about homicide statistics and abortion rates.”
He said police brutality and militarization are problems in America and people could unite behind that message.
“But due to groups like BLM, we might not,” Hart said. “BLM does not protest in Chicago or any other places where a lot of black people are being murdered, nor do they protest Planned Parenthood.”
Is he concerned that his higher public profile means law enforcement may be watching his social media more carefully?
“Yes, even though in your article it clearly shows that I am just having fun, satire, expressing my opinion in a less than appropriate way, people that profit from fear will continue to monitor me,” he said. “I won’t change what I post, I have a larger audience now.”
Hart was asked: Anything else readers should know about the Cuyamaca Street incident?
“I haven’t been banned,” he said. “I was never asked to leave. I have gone shopping there since. Also, they should take note of the many other protests that have taken place nationwide with many other people making the same Nazi comparison I did.”
In its news release Friday, the Sheriff’s Department said detectives who investigated the incident consulted with representatives of the state Department of Justice and the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.
“An analysis of all relevant criminal statutes was undertaken,” Lopez said. “It was determined there’s not enough evidence to charge the couple with a crime.”
The spokesman added: “The U.S. Supreme Court has said that ‘[s]peech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express the thought that we hate.'”
But Lopez concluded: “This incident should serve as a reminder for anyone contemplating wearing or displaying items closely associated with hate and human suffering that our society does not tolerate this behavior.
“Santee is a city of families and the community is rightfully disgusted at this couple’s despicable behavior. The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department thoroughly investigates incidents such as these and will hold those who violate the law accountable.”
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