A member of legislative leadership, in response to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, is aiming to ban protectors from wearing masks.

House Bill 1304 prime sponsor Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, said the purpose of bills such as his are to give law enforcement clear direction on handling of protests.

“That’s not a peaceful protest,” Carlson said of protesters wearing masks during demonstrations. “It might be legal in Baghdad but not in Bismarck.”

HB1304 would bar people from wearing a mask or hood that covers part or all of the face when in a public area, such as a road or highway. It would also ban use of coverings for a person’s face while at a demonstration or rally on private property without written permission.

Throughout the months of protests, some of the opponents of the four-state, $3.8 billion pipeline have worn masks to shield their identities whether at construction sites or around the Bismarck-Mandan area.

A number of exemptions are included in HB1304 for masks and coverings. These include for religious purposes, for theatrical productions, sporting events, parades, civil defense drills and protection from severe weather.

A violation under HB1304 would result in a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of one year’s imprisonment, a $3,000 fine or both.

Carlson said he believes there would be strong support among fellow lawmakers for the anti-mask law.

Jennifer Cook, policy director for ACLU of North Dakota, said the organization opposes HB1304 on First Amendment grounds.

“The fact that they have exemptions shows a speech restriction based on content,” Cook said. “It’s also concerning that this bill is directed to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. Wearing a mask during a protest, that’s not a criminal activity.”

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