Governor Proposes Subway Mask Ban to Curb Anti-Semitism

New York Governor Kathy Hochul has proposed a legislative ban on face masks on the NYC subway system to combat acts of anti-Semitism. She claims that criminals are concealing their identities using face coverings.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, New York had a law banning face masks in public. This rule was suspended in 2020 in response to the pandemic, and city authorities made face coverings mandatory for all subway riders until September 2022.

Speaking to reporters at a news conference in Albany on Thursday, Hochul said she was discussing the details of a bill with lawmakers to once again ban masks. She noted that the policy needs to be clearly defined to include “common-sense exemptions” for the use of face masks for health, cultural or religious purposes.

“We will not tolerate individuals using masks to evade responsibility for criminal or threatening behavior,” Hochul said, adding that her team is “working on a solution.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams has also mentioned reviving a version of a mask ban and returning to pre-pandemic practices. He insists that people should not be able to wear masks at protests.

Hochul explained that she was prompted to propose the ban after receiving a report earlier this week about a group of people wearing face masks who “took over a subway car, scaring riders and chanting things about Hitler and wiping out Jews.”

It is unclear if the Governor was referring to a specific incident or several, but they appear to be connected to Monday’s pro-Palestinian demonstrations that took place around the city. Near Union Square Park, a number of people who had left the rally were seen on video flooding into a subway station waving flags and banging on drums.

In one clip, a man not wearing a face mask could be seen chanting “raise your hands if you’re a Zionist” to other passengers on the train, telling them to get out of the subway car. Another video shows a man in Union Square, also without a mask, shouting “I wish Hitler was still here. He would’ve wiped all you out!”

Critics of Hochul’s proposed mask ban have criticized it as an attempt to suppress protests where people want to conceal their identities to avoid legal or professional repercussions. Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, suggested that the governor’s legislation would be used to selectively stifle political protests and used to “arrest, doxx, surveil and silence people of color and protestors the police disagree with.”