Anti-mask laws

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German football hooligans with masked faces in a 1990s match.

Anti-mask or anti-masking laws refer to legislative or penal initiatives that seek to stop individuals from concealing their faces, who do so often to go unidentified during a crime.

North America[edit]

United States[edit]

In many US states and the District of Columbia, there are anti-mask laws.[1]

  • Anti-mask laws date back to the mid-20th century when states and municipalities passed them to stop the violent activities of the Ku Klux Klan, whose members typically wore hoods of white linen to conceal their identities.[2][3]
  • In the 21st century those laws have been applied to political protesters such as those affiliated with the Occupy Movement or Anonymous—wearing Guy Fawkes masks—.[4][5][6][7]
  • In some areas motorcyclists have been arrested using anti-masking laws as an illegal form of offender profiling. [8]


  • After several high-profile protests, the Canadian Parliament introduced Bill C-309, which bans the wearing of masks during a riot or other unlawful assembly.[9][10] The bill became law on June 19, 2013.[11] Those convicted of it face up to 10 years in prison.[12]
  • Canada's Criminal code, Section 351(2), also covers "Disguise with Intent", whereby "Every one who, with intent to commit an indictable offence, has his face masked or coloured or is otherwise disguised is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years". With some exceptions, an indictable offence in Canada is one that is subject to a fine of greater than $5,000 or imprisonment of more than six months.



  • In Austria since 2002 masking ban on demonstrations under § 9 of the Assembly Law (Versammlungsgesetz). Violation of the ban need not be prosecuted if the mask does not threaten public order and security. Violation of the ban entails, according to § 19a.b of the Law, imprisonment up to six months, repeated offenses one year or a fine.


  • Wearing masks during assemblies in a public place is illegal in Denmark.[13] The Danish penal code (Straffeloven) § 134 b, which was inserted with effect from 3 June 2000,[14] makes the violation punishable by a fine or up to six months imprisonment. Part 2 of § 134 b further criminalizes the possession of effects which must be viewed as intended to be used for masking in an assembly. The §134 b, part 3, exempts from penalty masking which is done to protect one's face against the weather.


  • The French ban on face covering is an act of parliament passed by the Senate of France on 14 September 2010, resulting in the ban on the wearing of face-covering headgear, including masks, helmets, balaclava, niqābs and other veils covering the face in public places, except under specified circumstances.


  • Since 1985, according to § 17a Abs. 2 Versammlungsgesetz you may not disguise your identity in public meetings such as demonstrations so the police are able to identify you. This violation can be fined with imprisonment up to one year.[15]


According to § 11, part 5 of the police statute (politiloven) from 1995, it is prohibited to be masked during an event taking place in public. Exempted from the prohibition are participants in theatre, masquerade or similar. In accordance with § 30 of the same law; violation is punishable by a fine or up to three months imprisonment.[16]


According to the Law № 54-ФЗ

  • it is prohibited to wear masks and any other means of hiding identity during public events;
  • the organizer of an event must require all the people taking part not to use any means of hiding identity.


According to the November 2013 Citizens’ Security Law (Ley mordaza), demonstration protesters who cover their faces may be fined up to 30,000.[17]


  • According to the Law on the Prohibition of masking in some cases,[18] it is prohibited for participants in the demonstration to fully or partially cover the face in a way that complicates identification. This prohibition applies only if there are disturbances of public order at demonstrations, or if there is an immediate danger of such disturbances. The ban does not apply to the covering of the face for religious reasons. It also does not apply to the extent participants are authorized (under 2 Ch. 7 a § Order Act) to fully or partially cover the face.


  • In the cantons of Basel-Stadt (1990), Zurich (1995), Bern (1999), Lucerne (2004), Thurgau (2004), Solothurn (2006) and St. Gallen (2009), there are laws banning use of masks.


  • Several days after Berkut riot police clashed with Euromaidan protesters, Verkhovna Rada enacted law 721-VII banning wearing masks, helmets or camouflage clothing by people taking part in a gathering, assembly, demonstration, protest, rally or other mass event. Fines for violating are monetary up to about $400 or administrative arrest up to 15 days.[19] The law was repealed in January 2014.[20][21][22]

United Kingdom[edit]

  • During the 2011 United Kingdom anti-austerity protests one of the temporary policies discussed in the COBRA meeting was to ban the covering of the face during the riots. Generally only enforced in areas in a riot stage, none were arrested solely for wearing masks, only ordered to take them off. However, many arrested who committed other crimes, such as looting and attacking police officers, were charged with failing to adhere to the mask ban as well as all the other infringements when placed before the court.[citation needed]
  • For a century, covering or blacking one's face was a criminal act that could lead to the death penalty; the Black Act was repealed in 1823



  • While it is not yet illegal to wear masks in public, police, notably in Victoria, have petitioned the state and territory governments to make it illegal unless a person has a valid reason for why they are/should be allowed to wear a mask in public.[23]
  • Currently under NSW law any person requiring a Justice of The Peace or Lawyer to witness statutory declarations or affidavits will be required to remove all head covers, masks included.[24]
  • NSW Police currently have the power to force a motorist to remove any head covering, masks included for identification reasons.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ CND: State Codes Related To Wearing Masks
  2. ^ "UNMASKING THE KLAN". Southern Poverty Law Center. 1999-09-15. 
  3. ^ "New York Penal Law - PEN § 240.35 | FindLaw". Findlaw. Retrieved 2017-01-30. 
  4. ^ Occupy's Halloween Party Might Break D.C.'s Anti-Mask Law
  5. ^ Old Anti-Mask Law Foils Wall Street Protestors
  6. ^ With a 'Hi-Oh, Silver!' ACLU Challenges Michigan Anti-Mask Law on Behalf of "Lone Ranger" Protesters
  7. ^ Who Goes There?" -- Proposing a Model Anti-Mask Act
  8. ^ "Bikers Arrested for Wearing Bandanas". Motorcycle Profiling Project. 2016-11-29. Retrieved 2016-11-30. 
  9. ^ Canadian Anti-Masking Bill Imminent
  10. ^ Police chiefs back anti-mask bill
  11. ^ Meagan Fitzpatrick, CBC News Wearing a mask at a riot is now a crime
  12. ^ Mask ban: Canada's veiled protesters face 10 years' jail
  13. ^ Name: * (2010-01-23). "Denmark: Police brutalise climate protesters | Green Left Weekly". Retrieved 2014-02-16. 
  14. ^ LOV nr 440 af 31/05/2000 om ændring af straffeloven(Maskeringsforbud)
  15. ^ "§ 17a VersG". Retrieved 2014-02-16. 
  16. ^ LOV-1995-08-04-53, Lov om politiet (politiloven).
  17. ^ "Spain's anti-protest bill criticized as anti-democratic". Reuters. Retrieved 2014-02-16. 
  18. ^ "Lag (2005:900) om förbud mot maskering i vissa fall". 2006-01-01. Retrieved 2014-02-16. 
  19. ^ "Ukrainian News - Parliament Bans Wearing Masks, Helmets, Camouflage Clothing At Mass Rallies". 2014-01-17. Retrieved 2014-02-16. 
  20. ^ "Верховная Рада отменила "скандальные" законы - В Украине". 2014-01-28. Retrieved 2014-02-16. 
  21. ^
  22. ^ Flanagan, Ed (2014-01-28). "Ukraine anti-protest laws repealed; PM resigns - World News". Retrieved 2014-02-16. 
  23. ^ "Wearing a mask while protesting may soon be illegal following violent brawl". 2016-04-04. Retrieved 2017-01-23. 
  24. ^ "Veils to be removed under identity law". 2012-03-04. Retrieved 2017-01-23. 
  25. ^ Corderoy, Amy. "Police given broad powers to remove facial coverings". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2017-01-23.