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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Senator Says Bill To Ban Protesters From Wearing Hoodies Or Masks Is A ‘Good Thing’

An Oklahoma bill has recently been proposed that would effectively ban protesters from wearing hoodies or “Anonymous” masks. But the Senator who introduced it says that people are up in arms for nothing, because this is really a good thing for the community.
Ever since the Occupy Wall Street movement took off and spread to cities around the world, the Guy Fawkes mask worn by Anonymous “hacktivists” has been an increasingly common sight at protests.
Throughout 2014, Anons could be spotted in sizable numbers on the streets of Ferguson, Beavercreek, New York City and all over the world at anti-police brutality protests.
But now, Oklahoma lawmakers have proposed a bill that would ban activists from wearing masks or even hooded sweatshirts in public spaces.
The chair of the Oklahoma’s public safety committee introduced the bill, state senator Don Barrington (R), said that this would make “it unlawful to wear a mask, hood or covering during the commission of a crime or to intentionally conceal a person’s identity in a public place.”
He says it is to cut down on crime, but it wouldn’t apply to Halloween, parties, State sanctioned parades or “those wearing coverings required by their religious beliefs.”
It also wouldn’t apply to those who wear masks for medical purposes.
So are police going to just start asking people if they have a medical or religious reason to wear a mask? Clearly, the bill is intended to apply to those who are in public space, not at a party, or trick-or-treating, who officers can identify by virtue of their participating in protests. Robbers do not typically go to and from the places they commit crimes, while wearing masks. So invoking the farce of “fighting crime” is a nonsense.
Participating in protests wearing masks would be the only way that officers would know for sure that one was not wearing the mask under the aforementioned exemptions.
If protesters violate this new rule, it would result in a misdemeanor charge along with a fine of $50 to $500. It could even result in imprisonment for up to one year if the courts so decided.
Sen. Don Barrington said tried to back peddle, saying that even though the bill bans hoodies, “[it] is not designed to ban hoodies, but to prevent the wearing of masks or disguises in the commission of a crime.”
Barrington was forced to release a statement through his Senate office after our earlier report on this proposed ban swept the Internet. But Barrington’s statement itself was unmasked as soon as he released it. Wearing a hood or mask to disguise one’s identity for illegal purposes has already been illegal in Oklahoma for more than 90 years. If that was all his ban was prohibiting (which the text makes it clear is not the case), then there would be no need for it, since Oklahoma state law already prohibits what he is taking about.
The newly-proposed Senate Bill 13 would amend the existing law, adding the phrase “to intentionally conceal his or her identity in a public place by means of a robe, mask, or other disguise” whether or not a crime was being committed.
“The proposal is intended to protect law abiding citizens, not limit their rights,” Barrington added.
“This is simply an attempt to combat crime and make businesses and public spaces safer for everyone,” he concluded.
State American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Ryan Kiesel said that’s all nonsense. The former state representative called the bill “big government in a box.”

Kiesel served in the Legislature with Barrington. He says “it’s hard for me to believe [fighting crime] was Sen. Barrington’s intent.”