Ohio AG Taps Little-Known Anti-Mask Law to Threaten Anti-Israeli Protestors 

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Ohio Republican Attorney General Dave Yost has taken cowardly masked protestors head-on in a recent letter to the state’s university presidents. On Monday, Yost warned them that any protestors wearing masks could be subject to felony charges under a little-known law that forbids Ohio’s citizens from wearing “disguises” during mass protests. 

Kent State University, famous for the confrontations between Vietnam War demonstrators and National Guard troops in 1970, and Ohio State University, where recent protests resulted in arrests, are among the universities being warned that their students could face jail time and hefty fines for violating the 1953 law. 

The law he references is summed up in one short sentence: “It is illegal for anyone to join with two or more people to commit a misdemeanor while wearing white caps, masks, or any other disguise.” Breaking this “anti-disguise” law can lead to a fourth-degree felony charge, fines of up to $5,000, and up to five years “under community control.” 

It aimed to address concerns related to public safety and the potential for criminal activities committed by groups wearing disguises. Specifically, the law targeted the activities of the Ku Klux Klan. 

During the 1950s, the Ku Klux Klan was still active, and its members often wore white hoods and robes to conceal their identities while engaging in acts of racial violence, intimidation, and terrorism. The law sought to curb such behavior by making it illegal for individuals to unite with others to commit a misdemeanor while wearing disguises. By targeting the use of masks or other coverings during criminal activities, lawmakers aimed to prevent violence and maintain public order. 

However, the law’s application has evolved over time beyond its original intent. More recently, it has been invoked in various contexts, including protests and demonstrations. 

More protesters around the globe are wearing masks or covering their heads and faces to stay anonymous, especially now that facial recognition technology can lead to their arrests, as shown in the hunt for January 6 protestors. Some students blame COVID for donning masks, while others acknowledge that they fear “reprisals.” 

But Yost said he doesn’t understand the “reprisals” the students claim may occur through their protests. “Reprisals from what?” he wonders. “The university administrations are all in on this woke, anti-Israel, pro-Palestine rhetoric.” He adds that the only reprisals students should fear are those from authorities who “enforce laws like arson and trespassing.” 

Yost’s letter, described by him as a warning to potential lawbreakers about the consequences, drew backlash from some on the political left. In a press release, State Senator Bill DeMora (D-OH) strongly criticized Yost, calling his actions “disgusting” and accusing him of completely misinterpreting the law. DeMora wrote, “I hope that Dave Yost takes his letter and shoves it where the sun don’t shine!” 

Yost responded to the criticism by telling Fox News Digital that he believes the reaction is exaggerated. He clarified that his letter advises against unintentionally breaking the law, reminding people of Ohio’s regulations. Yost pointed out that the law is only relevant if someone is committing a criminal act with others while wearing a mask.  

He expressed confusion over why warning protestors about illegal behavior would be considered “intimidating” or offensive. He suggested that DeMora’s reaction was over the top because of the senator’s affiliation with the Democratic National Committee and his tendency to view everything through a political lens. Yost emphasized the importance of society operating within established rules while preserving freedom for all. 

Yost says his warning originates from his fear that the state has lost the ability to protect everyone’s rights equally. He emphasizes that while there is a right to protest on campus, it’s imperative to ensure that non-protesting students can study and learn peacefully. Yost adds that it’s essential to protect the communities surrounding universities, and failing to enforce laws designed to protect everyone is a troubling trend. He explained that such an approach contributes to the increasing sense of lawlessness spreading across the country, from issues like border control to actions by the Biden administration that overstep Congress’s authority. 

Yost pointed out that Martin Luther King, Jr. never wore a mask and suggested that anti-Israeli protestors should “own their expression.” 

But as liberals have shown repeatedly, cowardice appears to be the sole defense in Democrats’ playbook.