Man who used neck warmer as face mask challenges bus driver for stopping him, likens himself to Rosa Parks

PHOTO: Screengrab/Facebook

He may fancy himself as Singapore's Rosa Parks, but one man's civil disobedience on board an SBS Transit bus has been drawing brickbats instead of praise.

Going live on Facebook on Wednesday (Aug 19), the man — who was wearing a makeshift mask out of a neck warmer — challenged a bus captain and went on an expletive-laden tirade after being denied entry to the bus.

The police are currently investigating the incident, SBS Transit's Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications Tammy Tan said in a statement today (Aug 20).

The man's 15-minute long video started off with him complaining that the bus captain would not let him come on board.

He then turned the camera on himself, showing that he had a piece of cloth resembling a neck warmer pulled up over his nose.

Meanwhile, the bus captain, who had called SBS Transit's Operations Control Centre for assistance said in Mandarin: "It's not a mask. He is wearing a face towel. Is that allowed?"

The bus captain continued to relate the situation in Mandarin, claiming that he had refused to open the bus door for the man, who then forced it open and boarded the bus anyway.

"This is the problem when you have China people working in Singapore," the man said. "Ask him to learn to speak English."

The Operations Control Centre then advised the bus captain to call the police.

All the while, the man continued to berate him for not speaking English, accusing him of being a racist and threatening to take legal action. 

PHOTO: Screengrab/Facebook

Despite another passenger's offer to give him a proper face mask, the man refused to relent, saying that he did not want to "give in to these a*******".

At this point, the rest of the passengers started to file out of the bus. The man only agreed to disembark after two police officers arrived on the scene.

Under Phase Two rules, masks should be worn outside of one's home, including on public transport.

An advisory published on SBS Transit's Facebook page on Aug 14 also stated that passengers who do not wear their masks properly will be denied boarding.

The video garnered nearly 300,000 views at the time of writing and attracted over 4,000 comments, many of which sided with the driver.

PHOTO: Screengrab/Facebook

However, the man remained defiant, writing in a separate Facebook post: "Remember Rosa Parks? I might not have been as nice... but I didn't back down."

He also claimed he had been wearing "this type of mask" for the "entire [Covid-19] period" and alleged that the bus captain had stopped him because of "other personal issues".

SBS Transit's bus captains have a duty to ensure that all commuters don masks and wear them properly as part of the national effort to prevent the spread of Covid-19, Tan said.

"[The bus captain] was trying to do his job but was unfortunately ridiculed by the commuter who not only filmed him but also made disparaging comments."

Over the past two weeks, there have been three incidents (including this one) involving passengers harassing and even abusing SBS Transit's bus captains, Tan noted.

"We take these acts of harassment against our Bus Captains seriously as they are frontline workers providing an essential service."

SBS Transit will assist police investigations by sharing closed-circuit television footage of the incidents with them, she added.

This incident arrives following a string of altercations onboard public buses, fueled by passengers' refusal to wear their masks properly.

On August 11, the police were called after a passenger on an SBS Transit bus repeatedly refused to put on his face mask, shouted expletives and spat at the driver.

Last month, a man went viral after shouting at a bus driver and retorting "it's my life" when told to put on his mask.

For the latest updates on the coronavirus, visit here.

kimberlylim@asiaone.com