Montreal wants to remove your right to bundle up

Two guys at an anti-FTAA protest in 2003: Should they be arrested for covering their mouths?

Two guys at an anti-FTAA protest in 2003: Should they be arrested for covering their mouths?

In one of those stories that sound like they should be on The Onion, Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay is asking City Council to approve a rule that would make it illegal for protesters to wear masks.

Don’t get me wrong. The vast majority of protesters who wear ski masks to protect their faces do so because they know they will do something illegal and they don’t want to be identified.

But that doesn’t make this any less of a gross attack on freedom of expression.

The press release makes mention of an exception for “valid reasons”, which I would imagine includes “it’s freezing outside” and “I’m a Muslim woman” but not “I’m shy” or “I just don’t want people taking pictures of me”.

But the validity of those reasons would be up to police officers to judge (and maybe, if you have enough money, a court to overturn later). It gives them more power to harass or detain people who haven’t done anything wrong.

If I were more confident in our legal system, I would just laugh this off as something that would immediately get overturned by a court. But I’m not that confident anymore.

Arrest people who do things that are illegal, and charge them for doing those illegal things. Don’t start systematically removing people’s rights because statistics show it will help keep the peace better.

UPDATE (Jan. 28): No surprise, there was a protest to protest against the protest law.

10 thoughts on “Montreal wants to remove your right to bundle up

  1. Mr. Robertson

    They shouldn’t be arrested, but they should be ticketed. People covering their faces are hiding something. If they don’t want people to know who they are, then don’t march in a protest.

    Reply
  2. Guillaume Theoret

    Why should they be ticketed just because they don’t want the media to skew everything they’re doing for ratings? That’s the main reason they don’t want to be identified.

    Watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36A8DV3dk24 and you’ll understand much better. It’s 20 mins long but quite worth it.

    Disclaimer: I’ve never been to a protest myself but the above video certainly makes how protesters get treated by the media awfully clear.

    Reply
  3. DAVE ID

    The vast majority of protesters who wear ski masks to protect their faces do so because they know they will do something illegal and they don’t want to be identified.

    Everybody STAND BACK. The All-Knowing Steve has spoken. I just love it when you make affirmations as statements of facts based on absolutely NOTHING but what sounds like your own personal opinion.

    But I agree with the rest of your argument.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      It’s anecdotal, perhaps, but it’s true. They do this because they fear the police, and they fear the police because, more often than not, they’ve done something the police consider illegal.

      That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have the right to do so. But it’s the reason behind this proposed change.

      Reply
  4. Guillaume Theoret

    But what about the other side of the coin?

    If protesters aren’t allowed to hide their face to obscure their identity then police shouldn’t be allowed to wear full riot gear when there’s no riot going on and have a very visible name or identification number printed on their uniform so they can be identified too.

    If police were held to the same accountability standards I’m sure the protesters wouldn’t feel it as necessary to stay anonymous but that isn’t the case.

    Reply
  5. DAVE ID

    Protesting is not illegal. Sometimes you don’t want to be ID buy peers also. My anti-corporate sentiments don’t mesh well with my very-corporate job and keeping both separate is hard. Keeping my mouth shut when TPTB at work do something insanely stupid for profits has proven impossible at times and gets me in trouble more often than not – why I keep getting upgraded at work is beyond me.

    There are more than the simple legalities as reasons to not get identified.

    But like I said I agree with your larger argument about the proposed law. What these laws attempt to do is make people afraid to stand up. We need more French people, these people can throw a protest.

    Reply
  6. mart

    Sometimes you may want to protest but you don’t want your face plastered on the front page of the Journal de Montreal, especially if it can get you in trouble with your employer even though you have done nothing illegal.

    Even more sinister is when target of protest is taking pictures and notes with intent to retaliate. See recent cases of recent anti-Scientologists and anti-neo-nazis protests.
    http://novanewsnet.ukings.ca/nova_news_3588_10286.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_Game_(Scientology)

    Reply
  7. John

    If a Muslim woman can cover her face why can’t I. That’s such a double standard. If we as a society make a law it should apply to everybody equally regardless of religion. I could just say that my religion says I need to cover my face and it would be just as valid.

    Reply
  8. Pingback: Fagstein » Freedom of revulsion

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