Boston City Councilor Proposes 'Mask Ban' After Straight Pride Protests

Protesters, some with faces covered, demonstrated against the "Straight Pride Parade" in Boston on August 31. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — The Boston City Council will hold a hearing on one member's proposed ordnance prohibiting the wearing of masks on public property in the city.

The proposed ordnance was introduced by Boston City Councilor Tim McCarthy, who was "disgusted" by the conduct of some of the protesters at the "Straight Pride Parade"—many of whom wore masks.

Thirty-six people were arrested at the August 31 parade and rally, some of them charged with assaulting police.

McCarthy told WBZ's NightSide with Dan Rea that he believes the ordnance would serve public safety.

"Boston's been very, very lucky, and I think we can all say that we've been blessed to have such a great police force, and we haven't had that powder keg incident," McCarthy said. "And this is one way I believe to put one more tool in the tool box of the Boston Police Department to not have that powder keg incident where we're national and international news because we have a problem in the City of Boston."

Straight Pride Parade, Counter-Protesters Seen In Boston - Thumbnail Image

Straight Pride Parade, Counter-Protesters Seen In Boston

Under the proposed ordnance, there would be religious exemptions for face coverings.

Civil rights groups have expressed concerns over the proposed ban. Suffolk County District Attorney Rachel Rollins responded to it on The Kuhner Report on WBZ NewsRadio's sister station, WRKO, to say that she can see the argument—but it all comes down to the first amendment.

"There would be a counter, strong argument from the public saying we have a First-Amendment right to do this, we don't want to be put in any databases," Rollins said. "If you're taking pictures of our face and labeling us as certain things, that's in violation of our First Amendment rights."

At Wednesday's City Council meeting, members in favor of the ban spoke in support of law enforcement, who they believe the bill would benefit.

"When did society say it was okay to throw cups of urine and bottles at police officers?" McCarthy said. "When did people wake up in the morning and say, hey, let's go to a peaceful protest, but don't forget your razors and your keys for handcuffs, and god forbid, don't forget to bring your masks."

Councilor Frank Baker said police officers were attacked at the rally.

"I wonder, when is it okay to do things like yell in your face?" Baker said. "We go to meetings and we have verbal fecal matter thrown in our face all the time. These guys, literally, bottles of urine thrown at them—when is that not okay?"

Councilor Lydia Edwards offered her strong support for law enforcement and keeping an open dialogue with officers, but said the proposal was misguided.

"I absolutely support the Boston Police, I absolutely support that they have to do the toughest job," she said. "But I don't support this resolution. I don't support this resolution because I don't believe it actually is intended to support police. I think it is intended to support a political agenda, and to kick those who are protesting or holding the police accountable, to make them the perpetrators."

Councilor Michelle Wu praised the Boston Police Department for their commitment to community policing—and asked that, in light of that commitment, the public be allowed to comment on the proposal.

In particular, she wanted to consider the feelings of the LGBTQ community, which came out in force to protest a "Straight Pride" event some criticized as homophobic and hateful.

"When we talk about trust in the community, I think all of us who are elected professionals and serve the public in various departments do have to recognize that the LGBTQ community in particular has a history with conflicts with law enforcement, with police violence," she said. "And that's not about our day-to-day interactions in Boston throughout the year—it is a history that we all have to be aware of."

After some impassioned debate, the council voted to hold a hearing on the issue at a later date; McCarthy said he was hoping it would be set for the first or second week in October.

The Vice President of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, Larry Calderone, said he supports McCarthy's proposal.

WBZ NewsRadio's Carl Stevens (@carlwbz) reports

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