Target showdown over 'Black Lives Matter' mask goes viral

'You know all lives matter right?' an irate customer told a store employee

An Instagram post from a Target employee who refused to give in to a customer's demand that she remove a "Black Lives Matter" face mask has gone viral, illustrating the quandary facing retailers caught up in a nationwide reckoning over racial equity.

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The Long Island, N.Y., worker, identified only as Tana, said in the post that the customer was infuriated by her mask, which bore the movement's logo alongside a picture of a fist and told her, "You know all lives matter right?"

She then began a loud, profanity-laced tirade in which she accused the 21-year-old worker of racism toward white people and said her own ancestors were in the Holocaust, which was "worse than slavery," according to the post. Nationwide "Black Lives Matter" protests were prompted solely by the death of George Floyd in May, the woman continued.

Floyd, whose death as a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck was captured on video, is the latest in a series of black people to die in law enforcement custody.

"This isn't just the effect of one black man dying, it's the cause and effect of millions of black men, women and children dying without a second thought by the hands of police brutality," Tana responded to the customer, according to the post. She refused to take off the mask, citing the Constitution's guarantee of freedom of speech as well as store policy.

The customer, who was asked to leave, was later recorded outside talking to a security guard, who warned he would have to call the police if she didn't comply.

The woman, who denied the guard's claim that she was "disturbing business," said she would report the matter to the store's corporate headquarters. She also contacted local law enforcement, Suffolk County police confirmed to FOX Business.

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”We want everyone who shops and works at Target to feel welcomed and respected,” a Target spokesperson told FOX Business. “Based on a situation that escalated at our Selden, New York, store on June 25, we asked a guest to leave the premises.”

Store employees are required to wear masks to help the stem the spread of COVID-19, but the Minneapolis-based retailer's policy doesn't impose restrictions on their logos and designs.

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CEO Brian Cornell previously said that Target is committed to using its size, scale and resources "to help heal" racial inequity and "create lasting change." One of its Minneapolis stores was looted in the initial wave of sometimes violent protests after Floyd's death, which eventually led to criminal charges against the officers involved.

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"Target stands with Black families, communities and team members," Cornell said in a note to employees earlier this month. "As we face an inflection point in Minneapolis and across the country, we’re listening to our team, guests and communities."

While other companies have also pledged support, some have struggled to handle employees' desire to wear "Black Lives Matter" apparel.

Coffeehouse-chain Starbucks revised a policy banning non-company logos to permit pins and T-shirts supporting the movement, and a Publix employee in Florida quit because the store refused to let him wear a "Black Lives Matter" mask while at work.

The Target employee has not immediately responded to FOX Business' request for comment.

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