North Carolina GOP moves to BAN masks in public, Dems call it ‘unconscionable’

With the COVID-19 pandemic well in the rearview mirror, the Republican-controlled North Carolina state Senate voted along party lines Wednesday to ban people from wearing face masks in public.

As might be expected, perpetually aggrieved Democrats were quick to cry foul.

The GOP lawmakers targeted agitators who showed up at protests wearing masks to hide their identity, explaining that the law would help law enforcement, according to The Hill.

“It’s about time that the craziness is at least slowed down, if not literally stopped,” said state Sen. Buck Newton (R), who sponsored the bill.

Newton explained that he expects police officers to use “good common sense.” He added, “We didn’t see Granny getting arrested in the Walmart pre-COVID.”

The Hill reported that if a person is arrested for protesting while masked, the bill would elevate the classification of a person’s crime, either a misdemeanor or felony, to one class higher. North Carolina passed a law banning masks in public in 1953 in an effort to crack down on the Ku Klux Klan, and the bill returns public masking rules to their pre-pandemic form.

“It’s unconscionable,” said state Sen. Lisa Grafstein (D), according to WRAL.

State Sen. Natasha Marcus, a Democrat, made it clear that while the pandemic is over she has no interest in returning to normalcy.

“You say, ‘Well, this wasn’t a problem before COVID,’” Marcus told Newton during a debate on the bill, according to the Associated Press. “The world is different now. We can’t go back to when pandemics didn’t happen.”

“Is it really that you find masked chemo patients that threatening? Something about them makes you really angry?” she asked, according to WRAL. “Or is this, more likely, a desire to score some political points with the anti-mask crowd during an election year, at the expense of vulnerable people?”

State Sen. Sydney Batch (D), a cancer survivor, spoke about how her family wore masks because of her weakened immune system while she was undergoing treatment, the affiliate reported.

“This bill criminalizes their behavior, and mine,” she said. “… We talk a lot about freedoms in this chamber. I hear it all the time. I should have the freedom — my children and my husband should have the freedom — to wear masks in order to protect and save my life, without fear of being arrested and charged.”

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to veto the bill, but the Republican Party has a supermajority in the state and can override the governor’s wishes.

Tom Tillison

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