State Rep. Jay Lawrence, R-Scottsdale, says he plans to introduce a bill next year that would make it illegal for anyone to wear a mask or hood to conceal their identity during political demonstrations or parades. Lawrence’s proposal will run up against First Amendment rights and elicit court challenges, but that doesn’t concern him, “That’s for lawyers to decide”. He’s fine proposing bills that have little chance of success in order to score political points, then leaving the defense of the bill to the taxpayers. You’ve got to love his fiscally conservative approach!
He says he’s spoken with law-enforcement officers who agree protestors donning masks are more likely to commit crimes. Yet he declines to name which agencies he spoke with. (He’s hiding them? That’s a bit ironic.) I’ve spoken with law-enforcement officers who completely disagree, so this is pure conjecture. Phoenix police have not publically cited any problems or issues with protestors wearing masks. If a person commits a crime wearing a mask, they are arrested and unmasked. If they don’t commit a crime, there’s no issue. Problem solved.
Mask bans originated in opposition to the Klu Klux Klan, who covered their heads in white hoods to terrorize and commit violent crimes against black people. Lately, some far-left fringe groups have been wearing masks at protests, which offends Lawrence. Clearly, the impetus for this law is to criminalize protests. I personally do not agree with the sometimes violent actions of the bandana-wearing anarchist group called “antifa”, but they do not represent the vast majority of people protesting against hatred and intolerance. And they have every right to wear bandanas if they choose. Unmasking them does not change anything or solve any problem. Sometimes people wear bandanas and masks to protect themselves from pepper spray or tear gas used by police. Protecting one’s health at a protest or parade should not be illegal.
It’s worth noting that white supremacists, who have never had a problem using extreme violence and terror to enforce their oppressive beliefs, are offended when marginalized groups are not appropriately docile. Women and people of color, who have justifiable reason to be angry and outspoken about years of systematic oppression and violence, are not allowed to show any anger or aggression. It’s a double bind. We need to be demure and appropriately behaved while we complain, and we certainly can’t make our oppressors feel guilty about their actions or they’ll call it “reverse- discrimination”. As if we have any institutional power to actually pass or enforce discriminatory policies. Lawrence says, “peaceful protest, I’m all for it”. You can be upset, I just don’t want it to be upsetting to me.
Lawrence says he sees similarities in the protests of groups like Black Lives Matters with the KKK. “The thugs wearing masks and throwing things at police officers are the equivalent of the Klu Klux Klan”. Does this sound to anyone else like the same thing as “there are bad people on both sides”; making a false moral equivalency between people protesting against hatred and intolerance and people fighting to preserve a system that institutionalizes these things? Lawrence said, “There are no hangings of white people yet.” Could a person make a more offensive comment? What is he saying? If we allow marginalized people to protest against oppression and mistreatment, next thing you know they’ll be hanging whites in retaliation for years of being hung themselves?
He’s whipping up fear of the “Other”, in perfect white supremacist fashion. As if people of color could suddenly, while under cover of a mask, take control of the levers of power (economic, political, social) from which they have been legally and systematically excluded for centuries and exact biblical judgement against their oppressors? Jay, are you really offended by masks, as you claim, or actually just afraid?