A new bill called the “Unmasking Antifa Act of 2018” seeks enhanced penalties against rioters and others who use clothing to conceal their identities while committing certain crimes.
One of the reasons federal prosecutors were unable to secure convictions against all but a handful of the accused #DisruptJ20 rioters is because positive identification has been impossible in many cases.
Masked Antifa activists who allegedly used physical violence in the nation’s capital to try to prevent the inauguration of President Donald Trump on Jan. 20, 2017, could not be identified because many of them were dressed wholly in black attire intended to obscure their identities. Last Friday, the government filed a motion to dismiss the remaining cases against the protesters.
Such laws have a complicated history. Many of the anti-masking laws on the books date back to the Jim Crow era as a way to hinder the Ku Klux Klan, whose members notoriously donned white hoods to shield their identities as they committed violence against black Americans, Republican activists, and their property. More recently, the laws have been questioned for being overbroad.
The measure, H.R. 6054, was introduced June 8, by Rep. Daniel Donovan Jr. (R-N.Y.).
My bill expands upon long-standing civil rights statutes to make it a crime to deprive someone of Constitutionally-guaranteed protections while masked or disguised,” Donovan said in a written statement.
Americans have the natural right to speak and protest freely; it is not a right to throw Molotov cocktails and beat people while hiding behind a mask.
Predictably, an Antifa activist interviewed by Vice said the proposed law would somehow violate his rights.
“H.R. 6054 takes a pro-fascist stance in its very name, and doubtlessly in its enforcement,” said Carmichael Monaco, a member of the Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council in New York City.
In the current political climate, antifascists who speak out against fascism, racism, xenophobia, etc. are routinely harassed, threatened, and attacked by the far right, often supported by the police, who are notably exempted here. Families and friends of antifascists also become targets of far right violence. The wearing of a mask is an act of self-defense often necessary to ensure one’s right to free speech.”
Of course the Vice article provided no evidence that the police anywhere had actually “supported” “the far right.
The legislation would amend Chapter 13 of Title 18, United States Code, by adding a new section that states:
Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, while in disguise, including while wearing a mask, injures, oppresses, threatens, or intimidates any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both.
Dressing completely in black is known as the black bloc style of direct-action protest. Activists use this sartorial tactic by dressing from head-to-toe in black (including face masks or balaclavas) to conceal their identities when they commit violent acts and other crimes in the course of a protest.
After the first six #DisruptJ20 demonstrators were acquitted in December 2017, John Sexton lamented at Hot Air that more such undeserved legal exonerations were on their way.
“Wearing masks is a get out of jail free card,” he wrote. “As long as no one can identify who broke which window or who started which fire, you’re safe from all consequences. This was their plan all along.”
Antifa efforts to thwart the democratically expressed will of the American people by blocking the swearing-in of the 45th president were featured in America Under Siege: Civil War 2017, the first of a three-part documentary series, produced by Capital Research Center’s film production company, Dangerous Documentaries.
Antifa are self-styled anti-fascists who embrace fascist tactics and are notorious for assaulting conservatives and members of the so-called alt-right. These modern-day domestic terrorists trace their roots back to Nazi Germany where they opposed Nazi storm troopers, but copied their tactics, using their fists to shut down political opponents and break up meetings and rallies. The anarchists and communists of the Antifa movement are notorious for promiscuously labeling those they target as fascists, Nazis, and racists.