|You might favor this bill if:
► You believe that those who threaten others while masked or disguised in any form of protest should be penalized with up to 15 years in prison.
|You might oppose this bill if:
► You believe that any form of penalization to protesters is a direct infringement of the first amendment. Also, the legislation does not define the term "threatening others," which could leave the legislation open for interpretation.
The Unmasking Antifa Act would penalize those who commit certain offenses, such as threatening or injuring others, while in disguise or masked. Penalties include fines and imprisonment of up to 15 years. Law enforcement officers would not subject to the act, as the bill only targets civilians.
The "Antifa" movement, short for "anti-fascist", is an autonomous movement whose main goal is to harass those whom they identify as fascists, or racists, both online and in real life. According to the BBC, their stated focus is on fighting far-right and white supremacist ideologies directly, rather than politically. The "Antifa" name is an umbrella term for a collection of groups and individuals. It holds no formal organization, membership, or actual leadership and often times organize independently. Often times, Antifa members will wear black masks in demonstrations, and this is exactly what the bill is attacking.
The legislation states, "whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, while in disguise, including while wearing a mask, injures, oppresses, threatens, or intimidates any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both."
Some worry the legislation could potentially violate first amendment rights and not be specific enough. For instance, even unpopular groups like the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) should be permitted to gather and protest, even masked, under protections of the first amendment, but when does the group "cross the line" and become threatening to others? The legislation is broad and does not really answer the question.
Antifa supporters say the law is aimed directly at them and not at other groups. While the KKK could still be considered a group of "masked individuals who threaten others," they are not named anywhere on the legislation, while groups like Antifa are directly named on the title of the bill.
The far-right has used Antifa as a scapegoats of sorts, attempting to falsely link them with mass-shooting attacks, gang-style attacks, and portraying them as being just as violent as white nationalists. A report from the Anti-Defamation League concluded that the "far-left" is often times less violent than the "far-right."
Rep. Donovan defends his legislation.
Americans have the natural right to speak and protest freely; it is not a right to throw Molotov cocktails and beat people who assemble peacefully while hiding behind a mask. My bill adds a penalty for doing so to the decades-old civil rights statutes— Dan Donovan (@RepDanDonovan) July 11, 2018
Sponsored by: Donovan, Daniel M., Jr. [R-NY-11].
Cosponsored by: 3 Rep / 0 Dem.