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'Trash the mask' event at Concord Mills gains social interest as Gov. Cooper's new COVID-19 restrictions begin

Concord city officials said they're aware of a planned protest over North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper's modified stay-at-home order to control the spread of COVID-19.

CONCORD, N.C. — Officials in Concord, North Carolina, issued a statement saying they were aware of a "Trash the Mask" event being organized by anti-mask advocates at Concord Mills Mall Friday.

The event, which was organized on Facebook by Amy Moore Benjamin and a group called Trump Event Images, is in response to Gov. Roy Cooper's new COVID-19 restrictions, including the statewide nightly curfew that begins Friday. North Carolina is experiencing a major surge in COVID-19 cases that health officials project will only get worse as more infections linked to Thanksgiving are reported.

WCNC Charlotte has learned Benjamin is a Wells Fargo employee in Charlotte. Wells Fargo has issued the following statement: 

"I can confirm that Amy Benjamin is a Wells Fargo employee in Charlotte. These activities are outside of work and do not represent Wells Fargo’s views. For safety, and in line with public health recommendations, our employees and customers are required to wear facial coverings while in Wells Fargo locations."

Organizers asked supporters to show up at Concord Mills and meet in the food court Friday evening before going shopping, all while not wearing face masks.

The event was originally scheduled for Friday night at 6:30 p.m. but was apparently moved to an earlier time, presumably because of the media attention.

In November, Cooper issued an executive order that tightened North Carolina's mandate on face masks and top state health officials have asked the general public to wear masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19. 

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"You should avoid non-essential activities and avoid people you don't live with," Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said. "I am very worried ... Do not wait until it is you or your loved one sick before you wear a mask."

The event gained a lot of attention on social media since Thursday. As of 11 a.m. Friday, more than 50 people RSVP'd on Facebook and over 200 have shown interest in the event.

City of Concord officials issued a statement, saying in part: "City personnel have been and will continue to work with Simon Property officials to determine an appropriate course of action, as with any event or incident on mall property."

The statement also stated Concord Mills employees will offer shoppers not wearing masks a free one and will ask people who refuse to comply to leave the property. Concord Police said those who refuse to leave can be charged with trespassing.

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