Arizona Republican touts anti-masking bill on Facebook

Rep. Jay Lawerence promises anti-masking bill when state legislature returns

An Arizona lawmaker said he would introduce legislation to “unmask” protestors at political rallies in a lengthy Facebook post one day following President Donald Trump’s Aug. 22 rally in downtown Phoenix.

“If you are that embarrassed — that ashamed — of the cause for which you are demonstrating I want to see you arrested," said Rep. Jay Lawrence (R-Scottsdale). "If you are not ashamed of the cause you represent, take off your mask, let everyone see who you are."

Lawrence said he'll propose the bill when the January legislative session begins. 

Several states, including Alabama, Texas, West Virginia and Ohio have unmasking laws, many rolled out in response to the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s and 50s. Lawrence’s proposed legislation specifically targets protestors at political demonstrations and crimes committed during those events. 

In April, Auburn University required anti-fascist protestors to remove masks while hosting white nationalist Richard Spencer. Although unmasking laws vary, Alabama’s law is clear in that it makes wearing a mask in public outside of Halloween and Mardi Gras illegal.

Lawrence's Facebook post is not as specific. 

“To help discourage these acts of violence and better protect Arizonans, I am in the process of initiating legislation that would unmask (through criminal penalty) those who, at political parades or demonstrations of any kind, wear hoods or masks in order to hide their faces, wear hoods or masks while being involved in any acts of violence, or wear hoods or masks while interfering with those at the scene trying to maintain order," Lawrence said in his Facebook post.   

Lawrence said he hopes the bill will make committing a misdemeanor while wearing a mask a felony instead. He said that law enforcement officials spoke in favor of such a bill.  

California had an unmasking law that was struck down in 1979 because it prevented protestors from shielding their identities for safety reasons. Now, California only bans mask while commiting a crime.   

“I respect the right and choice of the people who (wear masks)," said Fallon Leyba, an English and philosophy junior. "I know the reasoning behind that isn’t shame or anything.

“The mask doesn’t make the crime more dangerous, it doesn’t make it more felonious in any way," Leyba said.   


Sierra Warren, an anthropology junior who protested the president's rally, said masks at political demonstrations allow for freedom of expression.

“It gives us the option to be anonymous and it also gives us the option for political self-expression," Warren said.  


Reach the reporter at brookehanrahanreports@gmail.com and follow @brookehanrahan1 on Twitter. 

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