New “Unmasking Antifa Act” Would Sentence You to 15 Years for “Intimidating” While Masked
If you threaten or intimidate someone while wearing a face mask, you could risk getting sent to jail for 15 years. That is the main objective of a new bill introduced by U.S. Congressman Dan Donovan from New York. The bill is called “The Unmasking Antifa Act of 2018,” and in light of the bill’s name, many anti-fascists take the bill to be directly targeting their movement. This anti-fascist movement is commonly referred to as “Antifa,” and while Antifa members don’t always wear masks, it is not an uncommon practice in the movement.
According to the bill’s language, anyone or group of persons who “injures, oppresses, threatens, or intimidates” others with a disguise or mask on is eligible for 15 years imprisonment.
Antifa vs. Alt-Right
The Antifa movement opposes fascist uprisings and neo-Nazi activities, which is how some characterize the “alt-right.” The alt-right movement is largely white male heterosexuals who say they are defending their white anglo European heritage. How the movements are seen or defined largely depends on who is defining them. The two movements often clash and appear at protests just to oppose each other.
The most notorious clash between the alt-right and Antifa came in Charlottesville, Virginia last year. The alt-right planned a rally which many dubbed a white-supremacist rally and both Antifa members and people unaffiliated with Antifa showed up to counter-protest. A 32-year-old woman, Heather Heyer, was a counter-protester at the rally and was killed when she was hit by a car driven by a man “who acquaintances have identified as a Nazi sympathizer,” according to The Independent.
The sponsor of the bill says the bill if passed will target and criminalize the tactics used by anyone engaging in threatening behavior while wearing masks. Others say the bill unfairly targets and discriminates against the Antifa movement while indirectly supporting the alt-right movement.
“This bill explicitly targets the tactics used by anti-fascists to protect themselves against the violence and harassment of the far-right groups who routinely target them,” said Janine Renee Cunningham, a member of New York’s Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council, in a statement to The Independent.
“As a result, it should be considered tacit support of not only fascism, but also dangerous alt-right groups in this country,” Cunningham added.
Supporters Say the Bill Will Discourage Violent Protests
Ryan Patrick, spokesman for Congressman Dan Donovan, insists the bill serves to update existing civil rights statutes by adding penalties for misbehaving when donning a mask. He said the bill does not have any particular person or group as focus, though when the name of a bill directly pinpoints one group of people, it is hard not to see an implicit bias.
The former head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, who resigned in protest under Trump, tweeted a response to the bill on Tuesday.
Congressman Donovan stated in the bill’s defense, “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.”
The Independent reported that 372 people in the U.S. died between 2007 and 2016 at the hands of domestic extremists of all kinds. The Anti-Defamation League said approximately 74 percent of those deaths were caused by right-wing extremists and two percent were caused by left-wing extremists.