A Republican Senator from Oklahoma has proposed an amendment to a nearly 100-year old law in the state that would make it a crime to hide your identity in public. If passed, it could possibly even mean an effective ban on wearing hooded sweatshirts in public.
The original and oddly phrased law in question, 21 OS 1301, was passed in the 1920’s as a legal ban to wearing a hood or disguise “during the commission of criminal offense,” according to KFOR. The law was originally enacted as a prevention measure for then-rampant Ku Klux Klan violence committed by men in hoods throughout the state.
The new amendment proposal, put forth by Senator Don Barrington, greatly widens the scope of the law and proposes a ban on individuals intentionally concealing their “identity in a public space by means of a robe, mask, or other disguise” regardless of whether or not a crime has been committed. If the new amendment passes, violators would be hit with a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $500.
According to Huffington Post, the new language in the bill “includes exemptions for religious garments, weather protection, safety or medical purposes, parades, Halloween celebrations, masquerade parties, ‘minstrel troupes,’ circuses, sporting groups, mascots or ‘other amusements or dramatic shows.’” Nonetheless, state residents and spectators around the country have quickly lambasted the proposal as an overzealous crackdown with far-reaching consequences.
Meanwhile, Barrington himself claims that his proposed measure is in the name of public safety.
“The intent of Senate Bill 13 is to make businesses and public places safer by ensuring that people cannot conceal their identities for the purpose of crime or harassment,” he said. “Similar language has been in Oklahoma statutes for decades and numerous other states have similar laws in place. Oklahoma businesses want state leaders to be responsive to their safety concerns, and this is one way we can provide protection.”
Notably, the ACLU of Oklahoma has come out with its own aggressive response to the bill, calling it “an affront to fundamental rights, including the rights of free speech and privacy.”
“No one should worry about retaliation or retribution because they choose to attend a rally or a protest, which is precisely why the First Amendment protects anonymous speech in these instances,” the executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma, Ryan Kiesel, said. “It is no less concerning that such a vague and overly-broad law would invite selective enforcement and over-policing of otherwise law-abiding people. For lawmakers who campaign against Government overreach, voting against this bill would be a great way to practice what they preach.”