These Governments Are Criminalizing Wearing A Mask

white masks on a table
Zain Murdock
March 5, 2024

The U.K.’s Home Office has announced punishments for protesters wearing face masks: arrest, weeks in jail, and £1,000 fines. In the U.S., anti-protester laws have accumulated over the past several years, and legislation like Secure D.C. also criminalizes masking. 

These moves aren’t just going to expose people to airborne viruses like Covid-19. They’re attacking our resistance.

There’s a precedent. Cops have historically targeted attire like sagging pants, hijabs, hoodies, and “provocative” clothing.

 And coverings like ski masks, N95s, and masquerade masks are a particular foil to the police state because they conceal our faces.

Since 2020, protesters have been wearing masks to protect themselves and others from Covid-19 and to combat surveillance. It’s still common to see protesters distribute free masks, food, and water. 

But that community care doesn’t fit the state’s narrative of masking as “personal choice,” aligning with capitalism, individualism, ableism, and the criminal legal system.

And the state intends to make Black disabled people, and especially those who protest, especially vulnerable.

From masking in hospitals and public transit to street protests and other direct actions, we have an opportunity. 

It’s much harder for police to isolate, criminalize, and kill us if we move as a collective, and intentionally normalize and destigmatize masking. Our health and privacy are at stake. And masking can remain a symbol of solidarity and resistance.

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