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Philadelphia votes to ban ski masks in public; faces accusations of criminalizing young black men
Alleged looters, Philadelphia Police Department

Philadelphia votes to ban ski masks in public; faces accusations of criminalizing young black men

The Philadelphia City Council has approved a ban on ski masks in hopes of cutting down on the violent crime that continues to plague the Democrat-run city. The bill, which passed in a landslide vote 13 to 2, is now headed to Mayor Jim Kenney for ratification.

The city's attempt to deny anonymity to prospective murderers and thieves has rankled radical leftists who claim the ski mask ban criminalizes "fashion popular with Black and brown youth" and amounts to prejudice against "people of color."

The ban

The proposed amendment to the city code, originally introduced in June and cosponsored by 10 council members, states, "No person shall, with the specific intent to intimidate or threaten another person, or with the specific intent to hide one's identity during the commission of unlawful activity, wear a mask, hood, ski mask, balaclava, or other device or means of hiding, concealing or covering any any portion of the face for the purpose of concealing their identity on public property or private property."

If ratified by Kenney, the bill would prohibit the wearing of ski masks in any school building, recreation center, day care, park, and city-owned building, as well as well as on public trains, buses, and trolleys. Religious garb, holiday and theatrical costumes, and face coverings worn for protection while participating in sports are exempted from the ban.

Numerous states, including Florida, Georgia, and Virginia, have similar bans in place to keep potential criminals from disguising their identity.

The council noted in the preamble to the amendment that the wearing of ski masks became prevalent in the city around 2020, corresponding with "an uptick of individuals wanted by the Police Department who wore ski masks in the commission of a crime."

For instance, in June 2021, a pair of armed men in ski masks shot two people, one of them fatally. In September 2022, five masked individuals opened fire on a crowd at a junior varsity football game, killing a 14-year-old. In May, a thug in a ski mask killed a 15-year-old high school student on a public bus. Two months later, a gunman in a ski mask and body armor massacred five people and injured two children.

Philadelphia has had 383 homicides so far this year, according the Philadelphia Police Department. As of Nov. 26, there had been 497 reported rapes so far this year; 2,385 robberies involving a gun and 2,416 robberies without; 2,794 aggravated assaults with a gun and 4,585 aggravated assaults without; over 5,000 burglaries; 21,763 reports of stolen vehicles; 16,541 incidents of retail theft; 11,768 car break-ins; and 14,037 reports of unqualified theft.

According to Neighborhood Scout, the chances of becoming a victim of a property crime or a violent crime are 1 in 38 and 1 in 123, respectively.

"The use of ski masks by criminals to conceal their identities is both a public safety issues and a quality-of-life issue," said the preamble to the amendment. "Our quality of life suffers when residents feel at greater risk of experiencing crime while going about their daily lives in this City."

Those found in violation of the ban will be hit with a $250 fine. Those wearing a ski mask while committing a crime will be hit with a fine of up to $2,000.

"Oftentimes these ski masks are used to conceal criminal conduct," said Councilmember Anthony Phillips, the author of the amendment, reported WHHY News.

"We must do our duty and place the highest premium on restoring the public trust by having safer communities. This is what our neighbors have sent us to do," added Phillips.

Claims that unmasking criminals is racist

The bill was opposed by two council members, Kendra Brooks and Jamie Gauthier, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer.

"I can't in good conscience vote for something that I feel would further criminalize and marginalize young Black men in our city," said Gauthier, "particularly when I don't feel like, as a city, we've done enough to engage them, listen to them, and support them."

Brooks said, "My fear is that we're putting legislation on the books for a certain population that don't even realize that this is going to victimize them until it tarnishes the racial relationships between the police officers and young people."

Jetson Cruz, an activist with the Youth Art and Self-empowerment Project, which advocates against trying young offenders as adults, suggested the ban "is just a reason to target the young people."

"I've got to be worried about being stopped and harassed by the police for something I choose to wear," continued Cruz. "I've already got tattoos, and I'm already a person of color. It scares me."

The ACLU of Philadelphia, among the leftist outfits that have taken issue with this effort to unmask potential thieves and murderers, suggested both that the bill might violate expression rights and that police might exploit the ban as a means to harass pedestrians.

"This raises some serious concerns constitutionally," said Steve Loney, an attorney with the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "We've seen situations where just the knowledge that face coverings are banned in a place can still chill First Amendment activities."

Another local ACLU attorney who calls himself Solomon Furious Worlds said the bill was "an attempt to further criminalize young people of color."

Tara Schiraldi of the Defender Association of Philadelphia similarly suggested a mask ban was racially motivated, reported WHHY News.

"The criminalization of fashion popular with Black and brown youth puts Philadelphia in terrible company," said Schiraldi.

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