Should Anarchists be allowed to mask themselves?

During the G8 summit in Scotland there were news reports showing anarchists “protesting”. Shrouded in black outfits with black hoods and masks, they attacked police and committed vandalism.

The same thing just happened in San Francisco. Sending a policeman to the hospital and vandalizing business–corporate monoliths and mom and pop shops alike. There is now a reward for the “protestor” who hit the policeman, but there is little hope of discoveriing his/her identity, as they too were shrouded and masked in black.

My question is, although I support anyone’s right to protest, even these people who I do not understand at all, I do not support their right to create havoc and do it anonymously.

Shold any protest group who is masked and moving toward violence be tolerated? Or arrested immediatley enmasse?

I vote for locking the cowards up.

So people can dress as they like, unless they’re at a demonstration? Sorry, no.

Yeah, the only way you’d get away with that is by banning all masks. And that would be a shame at Mardi Gras.

Regardless, you’re crossing the ‘presumed innocent’ line there. The existence of a mask does not merit automatic arrest. It may merit keeping a close watch in potential riotous situations but automatic arrest smacks of imprisoning someone for their political beliefs. And that’s sure not a line we should be crossing.

Good points both. I should have said: all (read “only”) those protestors that move toward violence should be arrested. But I don’t know if that wold work. Jonathan Chance’s idea is probably the better one.

If wearing masks at a demonstration were to become illegal, the police would be arresting each other.

How are you going to stop an anarchist from wearing a mask? Who do you think can tell them what to do?

If they’re anarchists, they think the law doesn’t apply to them. So I fail to see how they’d pay attention to that particular law.

But I aslo think that in a lot of cases calling them anarchists is pandering to their aspirations
Peaceful protesters are peaceful protesters, fair enough; I have no problem with that. But why are the violent ones called are anarchists?
A lot of the violent protesters are just rent-a-mob from Hooligans R US who like having a go at the police.


the very first thing that came to my mind as I read this was a line of police officers, fully masked with helmets on, hiding behind those big lucite shields, moving steadily towards the crowd, nightsticks raised… and then they all stop and begin arresting each other since they were masked and becoming violent. It would make a sweet Python bit. :smiley:

The KKK have been getting away with this for years. I think it’s cowardly, and a convenient loophole. I don’t know though, that “wearing masks” should be illegal. Heck, what about protests or pickets in bitter winter weather? It’s a no win situation either way. Though, I do recall that the FBI/NASA? managed to collar a masked bank robber based on anaylsis of the wear pattern on the clothing he wore in videos of the robberies.

Paintball them with indelible ink; that should make identification easier after the mask comes off.

Great suggestion

Whilst we’re at it hose them down with whatever chemical it is a skunk produces.


Funny, the only person who managed to send a policeman to hospital at Gleneagles was George Bush. should we ban presidents on bicycles?

In this case, absolutely :wink:

Funny you should mention masks and anarchists…

Mask Of Anarchy

By Percy Bysshe Shelley :smiley:

Yeah, but Shelley was a flake, God knows.

Then how would this differ from the current approach. Someone commits violence, masked or not, is subject to arrest. Same for incitement to riot.

Oops, too late.

I dunno about this one; in some ways, it might be quite reasonable, under certain circumstances, to assume that a person who has taken steps to conceal their identity mght have done so because they intend to break the law - in the same sort of way that someone waving a large knife might intend to use it as a weapon. Prevention of crime is all about presumption - every effort is made to make the presumption as sound as possible, but we wouldn’t sit back and wait until the guy waving the knife decides to attack someone; are there circumstances under which we would reasonably not wait until the guy in the mask commits a crime and runs away? I think there might be.

Context is very important.

New York’s anti-mask law(link is to 10 page pdf by Clare Norins, Esq.) criminalizes the wearing of masks or disguises by three or more persons in a public place unless done in connection with a “masquerade party or like entertainment,” after obtaining a permit to wear masks from the police or other appropriate authorities. The courts have defined “like entertainment” as “social gatherings, dances, and performances that involve masks or costumes,” Under the current law, wearing a bandana tied around one’s face falls within the scope of the mask prohibition.

The courts have held that the anti-mask law furthers the important governmental interest of deterring violence and facilitating the apprehension of wrong-doers who seek to hide their identity. Since 2001, both the New York City Criminal Court and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals have held that the anti-mask law is not overly broad or facially unconstitutional. Moreover, both courts have rejected all case-specific challenges that the law was unconstitutional “as applied.” Nonetheless, both courts recognize that the law could theoretically be applied in a manner that violates the First Amendment’s protection of expressive conduct, also referred to as communicative conduct or symbolic speech.

How ironic that, when protesting about global issues, we are banned from wearing that which protects us from what we are protesting about.

It was not a judgement. That is how they describe themselves.

Good analogy, but there is a major difference. These Anarchists are wearing their hoods and masks while comitting crimes that we all can see. I wouldn’t be opposed to them concealing themselves if they were not being violent.

Great suggestion. Particularly if it is part of a plan to arrest them on the spot. Other wise, they just throw away the clothes.

I love it. Except, do you think they’d mind, as it might be an aromatic improvement?

But if wait for some, or all, of the people in a large group to actually commit violence it is probably too late to be able to bring them to justice. Given the likelihood that a group so assembled and so dressed will commit violence (based on their history), isn’t it the prudent/reponsible thing for authoriies to prevent it? The police often try to diffuse situations (by breaking up a mob for instance) befoer they turn vilolent.


Thanks, Papermache. Sanity might prevail after all. But probably not in San Francisco.

To those who think that wearing masks should be allowed: do you think that anything should be done prior to a known violent group becoming violent. And when the police see someone commiting vandalism, e.g., throwing a trsh can through a store front, don’t they have a duty to arrest them? If so, what should they do if the "crowd’ makes that impossible? If you do not allow them to take steps to quash the problem before it turns ugly and gets out of hand, the only other option would be to have a MASSIVE police presence on hand to be able to handle the situation when it does.

Be careful with your Venn diagrams: one could argue the denial of liberties to Muslims based on a small, violent faction also.
Given that these violent protestors infiltrate peaceful gatherings who eg. might wish to wear smog masks to protest about and protect from smog (such as cyclists on an environmentalist march or, heck, delivering a package in the course of their day), you are now talking about criminalising all sorts of people in the name of a few idiots insured who will be arrested forthwith anyway for damaging some insured property.

Making the innocent apparel of so many people illegal just to prevent that small probability of a window-smasher or rock-thrower getting away when they would have been caught had they not worn a mask is, I think, a ‘cure’ which is way worse than the disease.

Note also that in many cases the police do themselves no favours by subjecting protesting crowds to absurdly oppressive and draconian measures. At one suh march in London a couple of years ago, the entire crowd (of all ages and walks of life) was herded into a pen and denied even the chance to go to the toilet for several hours. By a hugely admirable effort of restraint on the part of that crowd, no violence erupted. Had I been in that pen, I might have felt like chucking a brick myself.