Reports of how many mask-less shoppers took part in an event at Devonshire Mall Saturday vary, but the hundreds anticipated did not materialize.
On the Facebook group "Questioning COVID in Windsor-Essex," some posters suggested only a handful came out, although some estimates suggest as many as 60 attended an earlier event in Essex.
There was a strong police presence at the mall Saturday by 2 p.m., when a peaceful event by those who are exempt from wearing face masks, and others who oppose their use altogether, was set to start.
Almost all the shoppers inside the mall were wearing face coverings when a reporter from BlackburnNews.com walked through the building.
Currie Soulliere organized the shopping event. Attempts to reach Soulliere by BlackburnNews.com have not been successful, but the details of Saturday's mask-free outing are posted on the Facebook page.
A screen shot of a post on Questioning COVID in Windsor-Essex Facebook page.
Our reporter was asked to leave the mall by a security officer. However, before the request, the reporter did manage to speak with workers who expressed concern about the event.
"It does make us very nervous," said Brittany, who asked her last name not be used. "We definitely have to be a little bit more cautious."
Her colleague, Alicia, feels the event unnecessarily puts mall workers at risk of COVID-19.
"I understand practicing your belief system, which I totally respect, I just think it's a matter of respecting other people at the same time," she added.
Another worker, who agreed to speak but would not give his first or last name, thinks the opposition to masks is blown out of proportion.
"I've known elderly ladies that have come in that only have one working lung, and they still wear their mask," he said. "I can wear my mask during a whole, strenuous workout with no problem. I wear it all day at work. It's not a big deal."
Darryl Burrell, who ran in the last election as a People's Party of Canada candidate in Windsor West, supported the event. On Saturday, he was shopping for shoes, without a mask.
"It's perfectly legal, and perfectly within everybody's rights to do what they're doing," he declared. "And it's safe. It's in the mandate, and nobody ever tells anybody the truth about the mandate."
Pressed about the mandate, Burrell explained he was referring to exemptions under the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit's order for all commercial establishments to require masks.
The order by the health unit does exempt some people from wearing face masks.
Under Section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act, masks are not required if a "child is under the age of two years; or a child under the age of five years either chronologically or developmentally and he or she refuses to wear a face covering and cannot be persuaded to do so by a caregiver."
Face masks are also not required if they would "inhibit a person's ability to breathe in any way -- for any other medical reason the person cannot safely wear a face covering such as, but not limited to, respiratory disease, cognitive difficulties or difficulties hearing or processing information," or "for any religious reason."
Windsor Mayor, Drew Dilkens, used his powers under the Civil Protection and Emergency Act to mandate masks inside all public indoor spaces.
Burrell said he was exempt, although he refused to say why, and BlackburnNews.com respected his right to privacy.
"I'm not that kind of person; I'm not scared of what people think of me, but a lot of people in society are scared, and a lot of people are slapping that mask on their face because they're afraid of what everyone else thinks," added Burrell. "I haven't put a mask on yet, and I won't."