Protests

Wearing a Mask in Public Shouldn't Be a Crime

In a free society, the default position should be the one that upholds individual liberty

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Last weekend's demonstrations on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va. didn't descend into rioting and mayhem, for which we can all be thankful. Only seven people were arrested—and four of them shouldn't have been.

Three of them are students at Virginia Commonwealth University, and the fourth is a former student. They were on hand to protest the neo-Confederates who had come to town, and were arrested for wearing masks in public. One wore a bandanna over her face; the others wore Halloween masks. In Virginia, wearing a mask or hood to conceal your identity is a felony.

In one of those amusing coincidences of which the universe seems so fond, their trials have been set for Oct. 31—Halloween. In another amusing coincidence, the law they are accused of breaking was passed in 1952, in an effort to stymie the KKK's effort to start a chapter in Richmond.

Actually, that is neither amusing nor a coincidence. Laws passed for the sake of protecting racial minorities or limiting the power of the majority often wind up being used for precisely the opposite purpose.

In April, for instance, two women were charged with a hate crime after they burned a sign supporting Donald Trump. Louisiana's "blue lives matter" law forbidding hate crimes against police officers has been interpreted to mean resisting arrest is a hate crime. Hate-speech laws have been used to shut down government critics in Kenya and punish anti-Israel activists in France, among many other examples.

As Glenn Greenwald wrote recently in The Intercept, "This is how hate speech laws are used in virtually every country in which they exist: not only to punish the types of right-wing bigotry that many advocates believe will be suppressed, but also a wide range of views that many on the left believe should be permissible, if not outright accepted… Ultimately, what constitutes 'hate speech' will be decided by majorities, which means that it is minority views that are vulnerable to suppression."

But the law against wearing masks in public is not a bad law because (or only because) it might affect college students protesting racism in addition to white supremacists trying to sustain it. It is a bad law because it infringes on individual freedom without justification.

To begin with, some people have legitimate grounds for wanting to conceal their identity in public. Just ask the many officers of the Virginia State Police who covered up their name tags while working last Saturday's protests. Like Carolyn Hill, the student who was arrested for wearing a bandanna, they did not want internet trolls tracking them down online and harassing them.

Second, people have other reasons for covering their faces in public. A political activist might wear a mask of Guy Fawkes or Nancy Pelosi to make a political point. That's free speech, protected by the First Amendment.

Muslim women often wear a niqab out of modesty. That's religious freedom, protected by the First Amendment.

People with weakened immune systems sometimes wear masks to protect them from infection.

And of course, there's Halloween.

We could carve out exceptions for people in those circumstances—and the current statute does make medical and holiday exceptions—but why should we?

Why should prohibition be the default position? In a free society, the default position should be the one that upholds individual liberty—and government should need a good reason to carve out an exception.

After all, in 99 cases out of 100 a mask doesn't hurt anybody. The law should not prohibit things that do nobody any harm.

But what about the hundredth case? Easy. There's no blanket prohibition against using a firearm, but the law imposes additional penalties for using a firearm in the commission of a felony. We could treat masks the same way.

True, sometimes cases might arise in which mask-wearing makes work harder for the police. If the police have surveillance video of a riot, for instance, identifying the culprits is easier if none of them is wearing a mask. But this is an unusual circumstance, and the law ought to be written for the norms, not the exceptions.

Besides: It's wrong to abrogate someone's rights simply to make life easier for the police. After all, the task of law enforcement would be much easier if the police didn't need warrants, or probable cause, and you had no right to remain silent or to have an attorney present, and so on.

As long as they're not hurting anybody else, people should have the legal right to cover their faces in public. Then, if they do hurt someone, arrest them. Then they can trade in the mask for an orange jumpsuit. Problem solved.

This column originally appeared at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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  1. I burned a communist flag and then took a big stinking shit on the ashes.

    1. It’s the individual shitting that I salute here.

    2. I too salute your fecal act of protest.

  2. I could not conceivably disagree more. If you want to publicly protest something, your hopes to remain anonymous in doing so are null and void. Given that rioters wear masks to avoid identification, I see no point allowing it for ANY public protest.

    You believe something is wrong, protest it. Don’t hide behind a mask like a fucking coward.

    But what about the hundredth case? Easy. There’s no blanket prohibition against using a firearm, but the law imposes additional penalties for using a firearm in the commission of a felony. We could treat masks the same way.

    With the added benefit of identification of said crime being impossible. Solid game plan.

    We’ve watched antifa thugs, for months, suppressing others’ rights through violence and they get no punishment due to no ability to identify. I don’t see this “let people wear masks” doing much to improve freedom.

    1. Or, another suggestion:
      Make wearing masks legal, but count all mask-wearers as the same person;
      If you’re caught at an antifa-event while wearing a mask, and someone else wearing a mask at that same event set fire to some immigrant’s limousine, you’re now on the docks for that felony.

    2. Don’t hide behind a mask like a fucking coward.
      There’s no blanket prohibition against using a firearm, but the law imposes additional penalties for using a firearm in the commission of a felony. We could treat masks the same way.
      With the added benefit of identification of said crime being impossible.
      We’ve watched antifa thugs, for months, suppressing others’ rights through violence and they get no punishment due to no ability to identify. I don’t see this “let people wear masks” doing much to improve freedom.

      I’m with you – no masks for weapon-carrying thugs who anonymously violate the rights of others.

      1. Our local sheriff’s department likes to come to public events in this sort of regalia as a community outreach effort.

        I think they believe it makes them look cool, to be standing around in a bunch of paramilitary gear, looking like a bunch of mercenaries.

        Somehow I don’t think it is accomplishing the bonding with the community they were hoping for.

    3. I don’t see this “let people do what they want that harms no one” doing much to improve freedom.

    4. And you shouldn’t be able to anonymously publish political statements. If you want to publicly protest something, your hopes to remain anonymous in doing so are null and void. Given that provocateurs publish anonymously to avoid identification, I see no point in allowing it for ANY publication.

      1. If commenters were violently suppressing others’ rights, this might be a worthwhile point.

        1. “If commenters were violently suppressing others’ rights, this might be a worthwhile point.”

          If anyone is doing that, arrest them.

          1. If someone is “violently supressing” my rights to free speech, I will return the favor and “violently supress” their rights by shooting them.

      2. “And you shouldn’t be able to anonymously publish political statements. ”

        Pseudonymously is the word you are looking for. A false name rather than no name.

    5. Don’t hide behind a mask like a fucking coward.

      I couldn’t agree more, anonymous internet commenter.

      1. I like how you signed your post.

        1. I’m not the one arguing that people who hide behind masks are fucking cowards who should be in prison.

      2. Bullshit analogy. There’s a fundamental difference between not stating your name and wearing a mask. Nobody is saying that protesters must shout their names before everything they say.

        1. Bullshit claim.

    6. Inconceivable! You couldn’t conceivably disagree more? Did you even read the article? Wearing a mask should not be a crime, committing crimes while wearing a mask is already not legal. Wearing a mask makes it impossible to identify criminals? You know crimes get solved all the time where nobody saw the criminal and there’s no evidence as to whether or not the criminal was even wearing a mask, right? The whole point of the article is that “making it easier for cops to identify criminals” is not sufficient justification for a law, otherwise you might as well just throw out the whole Constitution.

      1. Inconceivable! You couldn’t conceivably disagree more? Did you even read the article? Wearing a mask should not be a crime, committing crimes while wearing a mask is already not legal.

        With the added benefit of making identification nearly impossible. Some masked goon sucker punches and runs — guess what? That puncher does not have to suffer consequences for his/her actions. It’s not like “masked goon assaulting people” is some rare occurrence.

        You know crimes get solved all the time where nobody saw the criminal and there’s no evidence as to whether or not the criminal was even wearing a mask, right? The whole point of the article is that “making it easier for cops to identify criminals” is not sufficient justification for a law, otherwise you might as well just throw out the whole Constitution.

        There is zero justifiable reason to permit it. Your rights are not infringed upon loss of anonymity.

        1. Mask? No, go for a disguise instead……

          https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=770nI13-MJs

    7. This is a libertarian website??? Jesus Tap-dancing Christ, if we can’t agree that people should be free to wear masks in public it’s no wonder this movement can’t take hold.

      1. It wouldn’t be much of a libertarian website if it shut down people, like the one above, who make what most of us would consider unlibertarian comments from time to time.

        1. I think he meant “holy crap, there’s only 10 comments on this article, and 4 of them advocate for the decidedly libertarian position!” Which would mean that a huge number of people who self-identify as libertarian don’t hew to libertarian ideals. Not that the website should censor such views.

          But to be fair to ourselves, the sample size was small and the early poster gets the attention. So I sincerely doubt that this is the majority view, or even a sizable subset of libertarian thinking. As evidence I’ll offer up that pretty much every response since has been on the other side of the issue. Sometimes with great humor and insight, I might add.

        2. I don’t disagree with that, but when a significant amount of comments are borderline fascism, it’s hard to tell where you are from time-to-time.

          1. “are borderline fascism”

            Oh shut the fuck up.

            1. Allowing the government to tell someone what to wear in public is… what then?

              1. Not borderline fascism.

                But please, overreact more, it’s working.

              2. And weren’t we talking about the comments?

                Your post was, and I was, so try to keep your hyperbolic reactions straight.

              3. Allowing the government to tell someone what to wear in public is… what then?

                A strawman, as nobody is arguing for that position.

                1. If you want to publicly protest something, your hopes to remain anonymous in doing so are null and void. Given that rioters wear masks to avoid identification, I see no point allowing it for ANY public protest.

                  I don’t see this “let people wear masks” doing much to improve freedom.

                  In Virginia, wearing a mask or hood to conceal your identity is a felony.

                  Quoted from the original post. I think the OP was very clearly advocating for the illegality of wearing a mask in public. Also, the whole point of the article is about a law in the commonwealth of Virginia which makes if illegal to wear a mask in public to conceal your identity. At-best that’s a giant slippery slope.

                  Apparently these straw men that I’m using write themselves!

                  1. Quoted from the original post. I think the OP was very clearly advocating for the illegality of wearing a mask in public.

                    For a public protest, absolutely.

                    Because it’s cold outside, no.

                    Because you’re a Muslim, no.

                    1. It’s the binary attitude of Libertarians that make their policy proposals so sound…

                    2. Because you’re left handed, no.
                      Because you have blue eyes, no.
                      Because the sun is shining, no.
                      Because the sun rose in the east, no.
                      Because crocodiles have scales, no.

                  2. Saying people should not cover their faces is not remotely “telling someone what to wear in public”.

                    By your logic, banning the possession of dynamite in one’s home would be telling someone how to decorate their house.

                    1. Possession of dynamite should not be illegal.

                      Technically, explosives are not illegal to possess. Tannerite is very popular.

      2. Is mask-wearing some sacred right that must not be infringed?

        The commenter is arguing that a compromise between principles and reality has to be made to protect public safety. We have an epidemic of people wearing masks at protests with the intention of committing violent acts. And if you wait until someone commits the violent act it’s usually too late to catch them.

        Some of us care about enforcing liberty in the real world, not some debate club fantasy world.

        1. Epidemic? I think we have as much of that epidemic as we have an epidemic of schools being shot up. An epidemic of kids and dogs dying in hot cars. An epidemic of cops shooting every black person they see.

          Not that it’s ever much different, but there’s a hell of a lot of hyperbole here. Do you genuinely believe that the threat of masked antifas being violent is so strong, so pervasive, that it justifies a blanket ban preventing everyone from wearing masks?

          No, there’s no constitutional right to wear a mask. There also isn’t a pressing reason to allow the government to justify banning them.

        2. “We have an epidemic of people wearing masks at protests”

          moral panic alert!

      3. Yeah there are a lot of conservative statist bootlickers in the comments these days.

        1. Yes. But that’s good. Hopefully they’ll take the time to read, question thier stance, and eventually come around. Better they be here, then some DOD funded, patriotic themed, national socialist website claiming to be “conservative”.

    8. Absolutely, damikesc. And furthermore, no one should be permitted to wear gloves in public because criminals use gloves to conceal their identity from fingerprint analysis.

      1. Another bullshit analogy. Gloves are overwhelmingly worn for legitimate purposes.

        1. There are no legitimate reasons to wear a mask? Is legitimacy the criteria to use to judge all rights?

          1. I support bearing arms.

            I oppose jackasses walking down the street armed and pointing the gun at random people walking by, whether they fire or not.

            Guess I oppose rights or something.

            1. If someone points a gun at me, I will be drawing my own pistol and shooting them with a double tap.

          2. Reading comprehension: “overwhelmingly” means something. Gloves have a gazillion legitimate uses. There are extremely few situations where covering your face is legitimate.

            1. Religious observance
            2. Protection from flying objects or liquids while welding, grinding, performing chemistry experiments, etc
            3. Entertainment such as Halloween, costume parties, plays, etc
            4. Extreme cold

            #1 is usually not done in crowds. And frankly I would be ok with a ban as public safety trumps religious free exercise.
            #2 and #3 involve people whose identity is generally known despite their faces being covered.
            #4 is pretty rare and almost never done in crowds. We probably do have to tolerate it.

            1. “There are extremely few situations where covering your face is legitimate.”

              What’s illegitimate about not wanting others to see your face? If you want to wear a mask, isn’t that legitimate reason enough, or do you require something more than that, like it’s very cold outside?

              1. It’s illegitimate on the mere fact that he doesn’t like it. After all, so long as we all cannot wear masks, we’re equally more liberated, according to his username.

              2. It’s illegitimate on the mere fact that he doesn’t like it. After all, so long as we all cannot wear masks, we’re equally more liberated, according to his username.

    9. You have no duty to report your identity to the authorities unless you are breaking the law.
      After you are arrested (with probable cause, and/or a warrant), they can remove the mask to see who you are.

    10. I get your point – but I disagree.

      I used to work at Amazon.com. The VP I worked for was a bleeding heart libtard who approved of criminal aliens demonstrating in the streets. Given that they were all criminals, my opinion was that they should all be arrested, locked up and deported.

      Now imagine that I go into the streets to demonstrate for the rule of law – and get fired for it. In fact, on a broader front, there have been people fired for demonstrating because it didn’t “reflect well” on the company they worked for. How to resolve that? Wear a mask. If no one knows who you are – there is no reflection.

      So what do you do with Antifa scum? The POS who wear masks to commit crimes? Add a multiplier. So far as I know, every state in the Country has laws against, say, robbery. But if you use a gun during the robbery, and additional penalty is added – typically 5-20 years. So do the same with masks. If someone is prosecuted for, say, hurling a flaming trash can through a window, and the sentence for that crime is 5 years – double it. If the crime is punching someone in the face, and the penalty is $5000 in fines and two years in jail – double it. Let the mask me an exacerbating factor dealt with by higher penalties.

      Most of what I’ve seen with Antifa and their ilk is pointless violence with cops standing around with their thumbs up their asses. The masks don’t do much good against a nightstick.

  3. Who was that masked man?

    1. Clayton Moore?

    2. Murray Langston?

    3. Adam West?

  4. Every day is a masque holiday.

  5. Those laws were enacted to break the Klan. Antifa is the new Klan.

  6. People wear masks when they’re hunting all the time. They sometimes videotape this terrible law breaking and even download it to the Internet. Who will protect our sacred laws from these rednecks?

    1. Clayton Moore?

      1. Exactly.

      2. John Hart?

    2. If you were a deer, you would have a legitimate beef.

      1. Didn’t you mean “a legitimate venison?”

  7. Does heavy makeup count as a violation?
    Maybe the mask law is sexist?

    1. Damn you. You made me think of Tammy Faye Bakker.

    2. Be careful, you’re going to give the fascists ideas about how to shut down the trans community.

  8. I was thinking wigs, sunglasses and heavy makeup would be a funner way to protest Nazis and they’re fan boys anyway. That way when it gets violent you could beat a Nazi down in (self defense of course) while wearing drag.

  9. In my state i can get fined if my licence plate bracket covers part of my registration sticker. Hiding my licence plate is out of the question, of course. Apparently if you are a law abiding citizen minding your own businesses it is imperative that the police be able to identify you. If you are a left winger participating in a riot, however, Reason suddenly cares about your right to anonymity.

    1. Yeah! Because principals over principles, amirite?

      I can’t believe a libertarian magazine would take a position in support of the right to wear something in public.

      1. They were chill with a appelationally libertarian presidential candidate who wanted to ban burqas.

    2. You seem to be assuming that if statist fucks in the govt pass an unlibertarian law, such as the one requiring license plates so govt thugs can force you to disclose confidential information such as the identity of the person owning a car, that any other positions not as statist as that law are, somehow, unlibertarian.

    3. Reason is actually taking an even more extreme position in defense of the antifas. A license plate is analogous to shouting your identity. The correct analogy would be a right to cover not merely your license plate, but your entire car with a tarp, so that no one who has seen it uncovered could recognize and identify it from memory.

      And then, as a token “reasonable” concession, they would say that it should be illegal to commit a felony in or using a car covered with a tarp. Yeah, that should work.

      1. Or just speed through the Pay ‘n’ Spray so it’s a different color and the cops can’t find you and your wanted level clears.

    4. Put a wig over your license plate and claim that it’s transgendered?

  10. Sorry, I don’t think police have the right to hide their name tags. Rather, the public has a right to know who they are. The complaints that officers were being harassed online were mere hearsay, and in any case so what? Police officers are public officials, carrying weapons. One would think libertarians would not want to accord such individuals anonymity while performing a public function.

    1. Yeah, I’d think that would be a bone-stock position for any advocate of civil liberties.

      But I think his point in including that observation was to show that people on the other side of the rioter/law-abiding-citizen divide also want to conceal their identities, and can have reasonable motivations for those desires.

      I sure hope he wasn’t advocating for the right of police to conceal their identities in the course of normal duties.

      1. When you have the antifa participants shouting death to cops, etc like they were at this last rally, then police can have legitimate concerns about their personal safety off duty and that of their families.

        That is the reason, but their justification. It is understandable but it doesn’t make the practice justifiable.

        On the other hand, the irony is that the antifa participants cover their faces… The covering of the name tags is subtle trolling.

        On a side note… Every officer has a badge and badge number. That allows the public and protesters to still identify an offending officer. Are they covering the badge number to? If so I have a bigger problem with the covering of name tags. If they are not covering their badge number then I think this article leaves out an important piece.

    2. And they should not have the right to hide their tags. They also should be required to wear body cameras and have zero control over when it is on or off and the actual footage should not be under the control of the police dept alone.

  11. I wonder if any antifa retards would object to KKK retards being arrested for wearing masks and hoods?

    1. Not in the least. Their ideology isn’t based around their right to protest. It is based around “these people are evil and must be opposed.” Their political philosophy may be primarily anarcho-communism, but the underlying principle – oft stated – is that “we are right, they are wrong and evil and they do not have the right to hold these evil views.”

      The fact that they operate under cover of freedom of expression and a right to political dissent is of no consequence to them.

  12. I reluctantly agree that the law in question is a bad idea. As with the First amendment right of freedom of speech, this seems to be a case where defending an important right (the right to not have the government dictate how you dress) means defending jerks.

    I propose a different solution to Antifa; when they turn up at a protest armed (and they do) confiscate the weapons of anyone wearing a mask. They can be masked OR they can be armed. A masked armed person may, I think, be assumed to be acting with intent to assemble un-peaceably. The First Amendment right is the right “peaceably to assemble”. I think that a reasonable restriction on the Second Amendment right to bear arms is that you may not do so anonymously. You should have to take responsibility.

    Probably isn’t that easy, though……

    1. Keep and bear arms is one thing.

      Two opposing groups showing up in the public square armed with clubs and shields is another. I’m not sure exactly which public safety statute should apply, but there ought to be a way to confiscate such weapons under these conditions, or arrest people for disorderly conduct.

      1. Of course, that assumes that the police are actually doing their job to protect the public, and not standing down while one group assaults another with impunity. Which is not always a valid assumption.

      2. The limitation would seem o be the right “peaceably to assemble”. For all the talk about TWO groups showing up armed for battle, I have yet to see pictures of the Neo-Confederates (or whatever you want to call the people protesting the removal of Confederate memorials) showing lots of weapons. Further, in the only case I’ve read about extensively, the Neo-Confeds went to the length of getting a permit, and the Antifa just showed up.

        So, I’d say, while a permit is not necessary under the Constitution, it does help establish Peaceable intent. And if one side is NOT armed and one side IS, that again should create a reasonable suspicion of intent.

        And if the side that has a permit isn’t armed, and the side that doesn’t have a permit is, and is also masked, then the police should have the legal latitude to inform the armed and masked bunch; “You look like you came looking for a fight. If that isn’t the case, disarm, now. Because as matters stand, if there IS trouble, the very first thing we are going to do is detain everyone we can catch from the bunch that turned un armed and masked and with no prior notice.”

    2. They can be masked OR they can be armed.

      So you’re proposing that an individual can only exercise one section of the Bill of Rights at any given time, and that all other freedoms are null and void after you pick one of them?

      1. Again, cannot fathom why Libertarianism isn’t taking hold. Their ideas always seem to work in the real world and all…

        1. “Again, cannot fathom why Libertarianism isn’t taking hold. Their ideas always seem to work in the real world and all…”
          Change that subject!
          Shove that goalpost!

      2. Which part of the Bill of Rights protects the right to wear a mask?

        1. Which part of the Bill of Rights prohibits it?

      3. I’m proposing that exercising the second amendment right to be armed should carry with it the responsibility to be up front about it.

      4. Yep. you can have the fourth amendment, or the fifth. Sounds about right.
        How about requiring permits to use the fifth and fourth amendment?
        Do I need a permit from my local sheriff to post online? (assault speech; reaches multiple people with only one click)

    3. Another thought… When someone commits a crime, arrest them.

    4. Shall not be infringed…UNLESS you’re wearing a mask.

    5. They can be masked OR they can be armed.

      What about the Lone Ranger?

      1. There you go again; confusing hollywood with reality. The Lone Ranger shot at other guys wearing a mask while carrying a gun.

  13. Sorry, I already beat you to the pro-Batman position in yesterday’s George Washington piece.

  14. What the heck am I to tell the grandkids about going out dressed for Halloween?

    1. Tell them they are doing it to get candy.

      1. I thought Old Man With Candy moved to another site?

    2. Who are we kidding, today’s Trick or Treaters are just in it for the Nazi Punching, right?

    3. Homemade ghost costumes are the best.

    4. Tell then the clowns will rape them. Stay home and demand a government program to deliver candy to the house.

  15. How about a compromise? Wearing mask and hunting commies without a permit both legal.

    1. “Sorry officer, I did not realize those were masked humans. I do have a turkey permit so I believe everything is in order. But please don’t sicc the game warden on me.”

  16. Bull stuff. Wearing a mask in public can be a crime in certain situations.

    The intent is the issue. If one is wearing a mask to conceal their identity while engaging in criminal activity it should be a felony.

    Simply wearing a ski mask to keep your face warm, or a full face helmet on a bike to protect from injury, (or as I do a balaclava under my full face helmet,) or for that matter a hajib for modesty should not be against the law unless there is a criminal intent added.

    Putting on a mask, dressing up in your antifa costume and then heading out to do some dirt and mayhem down to the revolution pretty well insures you fit the profile the law intended.

    1. The solution is to put license patches and/or stickers on masks.

    2. Its your opinion though. You are giving government the power to kill people if they do not consent to being arrested for wearing something on their head. It also screams police abuse for arresting those who are not doing anything but wearing a mask and have zero criminal intent.

  17. Creeping statism is a direct response to the squishy permissiveness that Reason loves to support.

    Wearing a mask during a peaceful protest should be perfectly legal. But, unfortunately, squishy libertarians think that rioting, blocking traffic, harassing others is “peaceful protesting”. Civil society requires a social contract and when that contract is made null and void, the only answer is either violence , or statism used to prevent violence.

    For example….Driving down the city street and encountering a “peaceful protest” should be an annoying, but non-impactful event. But realistically, a masked moron will jump on your hood, kick the side of the car and in general, steal from you (the insurance deductible) in a violent, forceful manner. We’ve seen innumberable examples of this in recent months. As a free citizen, what are my options?
    1) if not masked, I can get a picture and seek to legally recover damages.
    2) But if masked, I must attempt to restrain for law enforcement and sue for damages. But in a “peaceful protest” I would most likely be outnumbered and have little ability to restrain someone. The alternative then, is a direct defense of my property with direct violence against perpetrators. Someone masked, jumping on my car, should expect to be shot down and I should expect to be deemed innocent by my peers as actions of legitimate self defense.

  18. Creeping statism is a direct response to the squishy permissiveness that Reason loves to support.

    Wearing a mask during a peaceful protest should be perfectly legal. But, unfortunately, squishy libertarians think that rioting, blocking traffic, harassing others is “peaceful protesting”. Civil society requires a social contract and when that contract is made null and void, the only answer is either violence , or statism used to prevent violence.

    For example….Driving down the city street and encountering a “peaceful protest” should be an annoying, but non-impactful event. But realistically, a masked moron will jump on your hood, kick the side of the car and in general, steal from you (the insurance deductible) in a violent, forceful manner. We’ve seen innumberable examples of this in recent months. As a free citizen, what are my options?
    1) if not masked, I can get a picture and seek to legally recover damages.
    2) But if masked, I must attempt to restrain for law enforcement and sue for damages. But in a “peaceful protest” I would most likely be outnumbered and have little ability to restrain someone. The alternative then, is a direct defense of my property with direct violence against perpetrators. Someone masked, jumping on my car, should expect to be shot down and I should expect to be deemed innocent by my peers as actions of legitimate self defense.

    1. What protests are you going to and where can I attend them?

      1. BLM protests were doing this. Instapundit got heat for saying that if you were stuck in a car in a mob like that, you should just run them down.

      2. Most of these ‘protests’ from Antifa and BLM are resulting in widescale property destruction and harassment of fellow citizens. Try to watch mainstream media less and tune into the smaller outfits on left and right. you’ll see countless videos of everyday people getting trapped in these protests, having their property damaged, and generally treated like dirt.

        Masks cannot be tolerated by those ‘stealing’ the public freedom and property of others. either we tolerate statist rules against masks, or we tolerate citizens defending themselves and property with any necessary force to prevent the theft. Civil society can’t exist when one group is allowed more freedom than another.

  19. Jesus Christ! I’m the one around here that’s supposed to make arguments for a totalitarian government– not you guys. {Narrow gaze} Are you guys looking to replace my Soros-paid position on the Reason.com comment page? That’s my job, assholes!

  20. Like arguments restricting the right to an abortion this argument isn’t even close.

    1. You have a fundamental human right to wear whatever you want.
      You don’t have any right to end another human life, except in self-defense.

  21. Wearing a mask while participating in civil unrest (when the protest evolves into violence) most certainly should be prohibited. Covering the face so that once can commit crimes anonymously should not be tolerated. This is well beyond the First Amendment.

    1. Protesting is a right protected by the 1st Amendment. Why would anything associated with protesting that causes no hard be illegal?

      Its almost like people cannot prohibit protesting because its a constitutional right, so they look to ban in other ways. Kind of like owning guns are a constitutional right but some places make buying ammo difficult or limit capacity of magazines all in an effort to ban guns.

  22. I suppose in a modern context, an “anti mask” law could force demonstrators to bare their faces to be photographed and subject to image searches, preparatory to harassment.

  23. The writer of the article overlooks one salient point. People who wear face masks in public are rarely ever intent on doing good.

    1. Except Halloween, Easter, sporting events (mascots and face paint), military (camo face paint)….

      1. …freezing winds, chemical-peels, facial scarring/deformities, goal-tending, fire-supression, light-sensitivity…

  24. Wow, this is very sad. Too many people, even here, making the statist argument demanding that citizens must justify to the state why they should be ‘permitted’ to exercise their rights.

  25. And besides, if it’s legal to wear masks in public, it would inhibit the CIA’s ability to spy on everyone – for our own good, of course!

    1. That’s why it should be legal to wear whatever you want.
      If you destroy stuff while wearing a mask, the cops can take the mask off after they arrest you for breaking stuff.

      1. Be sure the mask is lined with tin foil

  26. While I agree that wearing a mask in public shouldn’t be a crime, I’m not shedding any tears here.

    This wouldn’t have come up if large groups of people wearing masks hadn’t been repeatedly committing crimes all over the country at protests, rallies. etc.

    It breaks my heart that left wing lunatics are feeling the burden of the law, and amuses me when it was a law ostensibly passed to curb the violence of right wing lunatics in the past.

  27. In Virginia, wearing a mask or hood to conceal your identity is a felony.
    Great opportunity to appeal this statute as unconstitutional. This is probably a Virginia statute that was codified after government switched from helping the KKK to “protecting” people from the KKK.

  28. Totally agree but of course if asked and if it’s justified, the mask wearer should reveal his/her identity.
    How do you feel about a muslim woman who would be asked to show her face?
    Does her religion prevail (no punt intended) and she would get to keep her “mask”, or should she show her face?
    If not, does that mean that anyone could refuse to remove their mask by pretending to be muslim?

    1. The clown-mask is the holiest of veils.

  29. Covering a license plate is not the same thing. The plate is State property – my face is not.
    This is a basic right to not be tracked by the State in all activities. At the time of the founding we did not have ubiquitous cameras, facial recognition, and universal tracking through financial transactions.

    Legislation for the convenience of the State is wrong and backwards.

  30. I don’t understand why police would want anti-mask laws. How can you shoot 200 people in a case of mistaken identity if you don’t allow masks?

  31. Batman and the Lone Ranger wore masks, and they FOUGHT crime.

    1. Are you sure? That may be the false narrative of old white men.

  32. Interesting list of state codes about wearing masks in public: http://www.anapsid.org/cnd/mcs/maskcodes.html

  33. RE: Wearing a Mask in Public Shouldn’t Be a Crime

    Yes, wearing a mask in public should be a crime.
    Otherwise how else will the police know who to beat up or shoot?

    1. Ironically, it is standard practice for riot-police to wear masks, to hide their identities and show a united inhuman front while beating and shooting people.

  34. When someone wears a mask to conceal their ID while commiting a crime. they void the right and freedom of others. and this is why Antifa hides their IDs, some even go sans ID to make booking them that much harder. The Bike Lock professor ran after he tried to kill the guy and only later didit come out that he had attacked several people THAT WE KNOW OF!

    1. Those cretins make it hard to be arrested? Just tattoo a bar code on their foreheads for easy processing next time…

    2. so, get arrested sans ID when rioting? Fine. Lock him up and leave him there until he can PROVE his identity, or it can be discovered elsewise.. such as with fingerprints, facial recognition, etc. Then also bust him for refusing to identify himself to an officer of the law when so required… state law in most places. Oh, and hold them in solitary until its sorted out. NO OUTSIDE contact until they KNOW who it is.

  35. Some people should cover their faces precisely BECAUSE they are otherwise hurting people.

  36. Are you sure that’s a good idea?

    ** A gunman wearing a clown mask opened fire at a church in Antioch, Tennessee, on Sunday, killing one person and wounding six others, according to a spokesman for the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department.

    ** Man in camo jacket, ski mask robbed Palm Bay, Florida store.

    ** Man in ‘Jason’ Mask Sought After Miss. Shooting Kills 1

    ** Man in ‘Scream’ mask shoots Santa Monica resident in home invasion

    ** Shooting suspect wore black mask, hoodie | CTV Vancouver News

    1. Only a very small percentage of people who commit crimes against society do so while masked.

  37. But the law against wearing masks in public is not a bad law because (or only because) it might affect college students protesting racism in addition to white supremacists trying to sustain it. It is a bad law because it infringes on individual freedom without justification.

    Antifa masks are part of their black bloc tactics to avoid arrest and prosecution for their terrorist acts.

  38. Pretty much true…… but of late, it seems the seditious rioters are covering their faces precisely BECAUSE they wish to remain anonymous to avoid possible identification and later detention for their misdeeds. Back when Portland Oregon was alive with rioters, the pictures we saw showed a whole lot of covered faces. And they managed to perpetrate somewhere near a billion dollars in damage.

    Of course, in that bit of mayhem, the coppers stood idly by scratching themselves precisely for the purpose of avoiding taking any decisive action.

    Might seem harsh, but I think the Korean Solution, as used during the LA riots some years back, is very effective. I’d suggest a three stage process for its application. First, fire in the direction of the crowd, so as to not strike anyone. If the mayhem proceeds apace, change the point of aim smewhat to carefully strike any who are clearly in the act of damage.. see a molotov cocktail in someone’s hands, lit, an arm rared back to throw, fire to take out that perp. See someone else with a large stone preparing to throw, fire again. See someone actually kicking or bashing a store window, yet again. Once a few of these ringleaders in destruction are hit, word will spread. At the least, no one will accept the bribes offered by the soros to “demonstrate’ in that town, The possible price is too high.

    Harsh? Not as harsh as a paid group of specialists holding entire cities hostage to their will.

    1. What’s your solution if you are confronted with a crowd that is masked and armed?

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  40. I’m not sure that police officers on duty covering up their badges is a good example of a “legitimate reason” for individuals wanting to hide their identity. In fact I think any public servant who doesn’t want his or her job performance scrutinized by the public should be encouraged to seek other employment. Surely the private sector abounds with career opportunities where employees are completely unaccountable to the people who pay their wages.

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