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ADL Calls for Reinstatement of NY Mask Ban

Jewish groups push for law to curb antisemitic threats

Jewish groups, led by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), are advocating for the reinstatement of New York's old law banning masks in public. This measure aims to facilitate the arrest of antisemitic demonstrators who hide their identities.

“A mask law will make a difference,” stated ADL Regional Director Scott Richman. He pointed out the historical impact such laws had on the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist group notorious for their masked violence. “Nobody wanted their face to be seen,” Richman noted.

The New York mask law, which had been in place for nearly two centuries, was rescinded during the Covid-19 pandemic to comply with health guidelines. However, Mark Treyger of the Jewish Community Relations Council argues that the time has come to reinstate it. “This is a crisis, an emergency,” Treyger asserted. “We need a comprehensive plan to stop the rising tide of antisemitism to protect Jewish New Yorkers and all New Yorkers.”

According to the ADL, antisemitic incidents in New York have surged dramatically since the Israel-Hamas conflict intensified on October 7. The conflict began with a surprise invasion by Hamas, resulting in 1,200 deaths and 252 abductions.

Staten Island Assemblyman Michael Reilly recently introduced legislation to amend the mask law, proposing penalties of up to one year in jail for violations involving injury, theft, or property damage. Reilly cited the dangers posed by masked individuals at anti-Israel protests on college campuses, where Jewish students have faced threats and vandalism. “If you’re truly out there for peaceful assembly, then there’s no reason to cover your face,” Reilly emphasized.

The conservative Manhattan Institute also supports anti-masking laws, arguing that they are crucial for public safety and accountability. Their brief stated, “By mandating visibility, anti-mask laws help ensure that individuals cannot hide behind anonymity to engage in criminal activities, terrorize, or otherwise disturb the peace.”

In contrast, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has expressed concerns, calling the use of anti-mask laws to target peaceful protesters a “big problem.”

As New York grapples with rising antisemitism, the debate over reinstating the mask ban underscores the urgency of finding effective measures to protect vulnerable communities.

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