ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) – A Missouri state lawmaker wants to make it illegal to wear a mask or a disguise during an unlawful protest.
Rep. Don Phillips-R, from the Branson area, was inspired by the protests in Ferguson.
“Most people aren’t going to wear a mask or a hood over their head if they’re lawfully out there,” said Rep. Phillips during a phone interview.
The bill would make it a crime to conceal one’s identity with a mask, robe or other disguise while committing the crime of unlawful assembly or rioting.
“Ferguson wouldn’t have been Ferguson if there was peaceful protesting which certainly people have a right to do,” said Phillips.
But Ferguson activist Rasheen Aldridge says this bill does nothing more than continue to divide people.
“It’s ridiculous this lawmaker is taking the time to criminalize people for wearing a mask at a protest instead of trying to find ways to bring each other together and why were out there protesting,” said Aldridge.
Rep. Phillips said this would also apply to gas masks.
“During the Ferguson days a lot of people wore masks or tear gas mask to protect themselves from law and order,” said Aldridge.
Aldridge worries it violates a protesters first amendment rights. Phillips disagrees.
“I don’t think so. I think [that right] ends when you started committing a crime,” said the lawmaker.
But the ACLU maintains that wearing a mask is protected by the First Amendment,
The bill which has been assigned to the public safety committee would make wearing a disguise or mask a misdemeanor, but only if they are committing another crime.
Rep. Phillips says anyone wearing a mask or disguise for religious or medical purposes is exempt.Copyright 2016 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.