Saint Nick gets ‘nicked’ by mall cops
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It looked like Old Saint Nick was on the naughty list after an online video seemed to portray the arrest of Santa in the Polo Park mall Wednesday.
In the video, which turned out to be a prank, two men who appear to be part of the mall’s security team place cuffs on Santa.
“I believed it. It’s Winnipeg — I wasn’t surprised,” said Nico Lasko, who was at the mall with his girlfriend Kirstie Raymundo later in the day.
The couple, both in their early 20s, started seeing the videos on social media in the morning.
Winnipeg is known for its “colourful characters,” so the arrest seemed plausible, Raymundo said.
“It was just a four-second video, so I had no reason to think it wasn’t real,” Lasko said. “Anything that’s not the full picture, you can gain assumptions that aren’t true.”
Staff from Cadillac-Fairview Polo Park issued an apology after reporters questioned the video.
In an email to the Free Press, a spokesperson called the incident “misguided and unfortunate.”
“On behalf of our team at CF Polo Park, we’d like to personally apologize to our guests, community and families,” they said. “To be clear, Santa has not been removed from the property, and there has been no wrongdoing. Any depiction of an arrest was done in jest by the centre’s staff and was an error in judgment.”
“I believed it. It’s Winnipeg — I wasn’t surprised.–Nico Lasko
Polo Park did not confirm when the incident happened, who was involved, or whether mall patrons or children witnessed the false arrest.
The official Winnipeg Police Service Twitter account said officers were not involved.
“Police did not attend Polo Park, and no mall Santa was arrested. Nothing untoward occurred,” it said.
“When we see something online, we shouldn’t necessarily assume that it’s true, especially if it’s something that upsets us.”–Alyson Shane
Alyson Shane, president of digital marketing agency Starling Social, laughed when she saw the video online, recognizing it as a prank.
“I thought it was hilarious, but jokes don’t always translate well on the internet because social media often lacks context. It must have been surprising and entertaining for people who saw it happen in the mall… but at the same time, without context, people can easily jump to conclusions.”
Shane has been publishing online content for more than 20 years. She sees the internet as a valuable tool for humour, connection and engagement, but recognizes it harbours misinformation.
“One of the challenges of social media use in the modern age is that people have fallen away from looking things up, and take things they see at face value,” she said.
“When we see something online, we shouldn’t necessarily assume that it’s true, especially if it’s something that upsets us.”
The joke was largely harmless and Shane doubts the mall will face ramifications from it.