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Coffee shop owner arrested for speaking against harassment caused by Tucson council’s anti-mask “wall of shame”

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The owner of a coffee shop in Tucson, Arizona, was arrested during a county board of supervisors meeting to discuss his establishment’s non-compliance with the mask mandate. 

He wants the county health department to adopt a mask policy that does not shame businesses as the policy was making him and his business the subject of an online harassment campaign. And when he complained about and gave examples of the threats he was receiving, he was arrested.

In Pima County, the health department punishes businesses who do not comply with the mask mandate by putting their names on a “wall of shame.” This has caused internet users to begin threatening and harassing those businesses that were shamed on the list.

The County Board of Supervisors encourages the general public to report non-compliant businesses. The board then investigates and decides whether the company should be put on the wall of shame. 

Viva Coffee House, co-owned by Kelly Walker, is one of the few businesses on that shame list. 

“We have tried to comply with all the COVID mandates,” Walker said. “They keep changing a lot.”

The coffee shop ended up on that list after a woman took photos and sent them to the County’s Board of Supervisors. According to Walker, those photos did not give a clear picture of his restaurant’s policy. He claims that the restaurant is compliant with the county’s mask policies. 

“We always, always had a good relationship with the health department. I really have no idea why they did this, but it wasn’t right,” said Walker. 

The listing led to Walker, his workers, and his family being attacked on social media. He has even received death threats. 

During the meeting, Kelly tried to read some of the abusive messages from the social media posts blasting him and his business. This got him arrested for disorderly conduct. 

Walker felt he had to so that the board could understand what local businesses are going through.

The coffee shop owner wants an apology and for the board to adopt a COVID policy that does not shame businesses. The board said it would consider his proposal. 

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