Some antifa groups hide their faces only when they anticipate violence, or when they’re in large enough groups that masks provide true anonymity.
“Those who have been doxed, their employers have been contacted, their families have been threatened, sometimes people come to their houses,” Bray says, recalling the story of one Danish anti-fascist who decided to speak publicly about his activism and the next month was assaulted multiple times.
One street medic, an electrical industry employee who has participated in multiple antifa protests in Berkeley, says he wears a mask because he fears being doxed might put his life or his family’s well-being in jeopardy.
(The lower court called the Klan a “persecuted group.”) The high court held that the Klan’s “history of anonymous violence makes the mask a form of intimidation subject to government control,” according to the a federal district court in Indiana ruled in favor of the Klan, striking down an anti-mask ordinance in the city of Goshen. More than a century ago, the Ku Klux Klan wore masks to terrorize persons they wanted to drive from their communities.
Today, the Klan’s descendant organization uses its masks to conceal the identities of those who hold ideas the community wishes to drive off,” a federal judge wrote.
Almost all were aimed at preventing Ku Klux Klansmen from concealing their identities while terrorizing, intimidating, or otherwise harassing various minority communities.
Most of the laws explicitly reference “hoods” in addition to masks, and some get even more specific: Ohio’s 1953 law bans “white caps, masks, or other disguise.” (Two Klan members lobbied against the Ohio ban, claiming it was discriminatory.) cover gatherings of more than two or three people.
On August 27 in Berkeley, more than 100 antifa protesters clad in various configurations of black hoodies, bandanas, hats, and sunglasses—and some carrying heavy poles or shields—ignored the city ordinance and marched en masse to Civic Center Park, where a handful of right-wingers had made sporadic appearances during the day. At least 18 states, and various smaller jurisdictions, have anti-masking laws on the books.
With mask-clad antifa members continuing to show up at right-wing events in Berkeley and elsewhere, we decided to look a bit deeper into the use of masks as a tactic, past and present, and the legality of banning them. The earliest, a New York state law that dates back to 1845, was passed in response to farmer uprisings—in particular a clash between a landowner and some farmer-tenants he sought to evict.
Very few of the existing laws contain exemptions for religion or health, and some have been challenged on those grounds as well.