Economy

New York City Police Use 150-Year-Old Law Against Wearing Masks To Arrest Wall Street Demonstrators

Is walking around with this mask in New York illegal?

As ThinkProgress previously reported, hundreds of demonstrators have encamped themselves in the financial district in New York City, hoping to call attention to Wall Street’s misdeeds.

Yesterday, seven protesters were arrested by the New York Police Department, despite being peaceful and not noticeably disrupting the normal activities of the city. The Wall Street Journal notes that the charges being brought against these demonstrators include “loitering and wearing [a] mask.” The Village Voice points out that the anti-mask law being used against demonstrators dates back to 1845, when farmers wore masks to conduct attacks against the police. The law was updated in 1965 to “prevent masked gathering of two or more people,” unless they are throwing masquerade parties:

The anti-mask law goes back to 1845, when tenant farmers used disguises (dressing up like Indians) to attack law enforcement officials, apparently. In 1965 the law was updated to prevent masked gatherings of two or more people, except in the case of masquerade parties. Whew.

Demonstrators took video of the arrests of some of the protesters. One of the protesters is simply wearing a plastic mask on the back of her head:

The occupation and protests on Wall Street are now entering their fifth day. Protesters are requesting on their website that people donate money for food for the demonstrators, and note that more than $9,000 has been donated so far.