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Anti-vaccination protesters target New York Cheesecake Factory; 6 arrested

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Posted at 12:39 PM, Dec 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-16 14:39:01-05

An anti-vaccination protest at a Cheesecake Factory in New York City sought to bring attention to what its participants claimed was their right to eat at the popular chain restaurant. But the stunt ended in six arrests for criminal trespass — and a lot of mockery on social media.

The Cheesecake Factory in Queens, New York, was following the city's requirement that restaurants ask patrons to show proof of vaccination for entry. Tuesday's incident was "unfortunate," said Cheesecake Factory spokeswoman Alethea Rowe in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch.

"The company is simply complying with the local ordinance concerning COVID-19 vaccine requirements," she added.

The incident highlights the stress that workers at restaurants and other businesses increasingly face from people who refuse to comply with regulations about masks and vaccinations. More cities and states — as well as businesses — are requiring people to wear masks or show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 as cases rise across the nation. A small but vocal group, however, insists that such regulations infringe on their rights.

It's unclear why the protesters targeted a Cheesecake Factory, but the incident sparked a large serving of snark on social media.

"Wow, being dumb enough to not get vaccinated AND getting pissy over not being allowed into a Cheesecake Factory in Queens is ... quite the intellectual combo," one Twitter user noted.

Another noted, "A Cheesecake Factory in Queens became a hill to fight on for some ridiculous anti-vaxxers last night."

Criminal trespass charge

In videos posted to social media, a group of unmasked people speak to New York City Police officers, who were called after the protesters refused to heed an employee's request to leave. A police officer warns the protesters that they would be arrested for criminal trespass if they fail to follow the police's order to depart the restaurant.

"They actually said they weren't going to serve us," one of the protesters tells the police.

Another protester argues, "It's not criminal trespass. We're here to access the business during normal business hours ... we are not committing a crime."

In the end, six of the protesters were arrested for criminal trespass at around 9:45 p.m. EST, the New York City Police department told CBS MoneyWatch.

"A 35-year-old female complainant reported that the group entered the establishment and requested to be seated, upon her requesting the group to show her proof of vaccination they all refused and they also refused to leave the premises as requested several times," an NYPD spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

She added, "The officers gave several lawful orders to the group to leave the location which they refused. Six protestors were placed under arrest without any further incident at 2145 hours after refusing to comply to a lawful order."