Protesters gathered on Saturday outside a hat store in Nashville, Tennessee, that sold “not vaccinated” Star of David patches and compared vaccine passports to the Nazi practice of requesting “your papers.”
The store, Hatwrks, said on Instagram in a post that was later deleted that it was selling the patches for $5. Amid an outbreak of anti-Semitic attacks across the country, the post sparked criticism on social media and outside the store, where protesters held signs saying “no Nazis in Nashville” and “sell hats not hate.”
A separate post to the store’s Instagram account — which also touted “mask free shopping” and promoted the conspiracy theory that vaccines have microchips in them — said that “all unvaccinated people will be segregated from society, marked and must wear a mask. What comes next?”
The hat company Stetson said that “as a result of the offensive content and opinions shared by Hatwrks,” it would stop selling its products through the store.
A post on the store’s account responding to the criticism said that “I pay much more respect to history by standing up with the fallen than offering silence and compliance.” In a later post, the store apologized, writing, “my hope was to share my genuine concern and fear, and to do all that I can to make sure that nothing” like the Holocaust “ever happens again.”
Gigi Gaskins, the store’s owner, according to state records, did not respond to requests for comment.
Criticism of vaccine passports, or digital proof of COVID-19 vaccination, extends beyond the United States: In London and Brussels on Saturday, demonstrators gathered to protest vaccination requirements.
Oregon said last week that it would require businesses to verify the vaccination status of customers before allowing them to enter without a mask, though business groups there questioned the practicality of the requirement. New York has created the Excelsior Pass, but is not requiring that it be used widely.
In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, signed into law on Wednesday legislation prohibiting local governments from requiring businesses to verify proof of vaccination.