As the Occupy Wall Street protest continues, police in lower Manhattan have begun arresting protesters. But protesters are not being arrested for disorderly conduct. They are being arrested for wearing Halloween masks.
Apparently New York has a law dating back over 150 years ago that forbids people from wearing a mask, if two or more people are gathered, unless they are attending a masquerade party. One would think that wearing a mask at a peaceful demonstration would be protected as a form of self expression, as guaranteed by the First Amendment in the United States Constitution. But apparently wearing a mask is forbidden as an unlawful expression.
Are the police trying to legally break up the protesters? Again according to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, the right to peaceful assembly is guaranteed. It reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
It seems as if the protesters are being “legally harassed” because if a couple of people were doing nothing more than walking down the street in New York City wearing a mask, more than likely the police would completely ignore them. But when a citizen wears a mask at a protest, the police use this outdated law to take down the protesters.
Will the Occupy Wall Street protest continue for weeks or months on end? According to reports, this protest began several days ago with approximately 1,000 – 2,000 protesters. Apparently this number has dwindled during the week.
Will the number pick up on weekends when people are off work or not attending classes? That remains to be seen. Perhaps the appropriate question is, will the protests continue until Halloween? Until then, leave your masks at home, that’s just too scary!
Edited by Wendy Gittleson