A man calling himself “Crimson Fist” and a woman, “Meta Data” reportedly like to wear masks and costumes while “patrolling” the streets in an Atlanta neighborhood with the intent of foiling crime.
Here’s a video featuring their efforts:
The problem is that they may very well be violating a state criminal statute. Georgia statute §16-11-38 criminalizes the wearing of a “mask, hood, or device which conceals identity of wearer” in a public place. While there are a few exceptions – – – Hallowe’en and umpire masks – – – none seem to apply to the Atlanta duo.
Such anti-masking statutes have several rationales related to the prevention and identification of crime, and in the South they are often closely related to anti-Klan efforts. Constitutional challenges to such statutes, usually on the basis of First Amendment free expression, have had mixed results. The initial hurdle is showing that there is some sort of protected expression intended by the wearer which would be understood by observers. This might be a high hurdle indeed for Mr. Fist and Ms. Data.
Moreover, if the crime-stopping pair are tolerated by law enforcement, later arrests – – – say of protesters wearing Guy Fawkes masks – – – will be susceptible to claims of viewpoint discrimination by the police under the First Amendment.