DAPL-inspired bill would make wearing masks in public illegal at some times

BISMARCK, N.D. - The pipeline protests have directly led to several proposed bills this legislative session.

A bill before the House Judiciary Committee would make wearing a mask in public illegal at most times.

For months during the summer, Dakota Access Pipeline protesters used masks to conceal their identities while protesting.

"If you're going to express your First Amendment rights and you have no intention of committing a crime, then why do you need your face covered?" said Rep. Todd Porter, R-Mandan.

"I thought for the protection and the safety of also the other people who are peacefully protesting, as well as our law enforcement officers, that this should be part of our statute," said Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo.

This bill would make it illegal to put on a mask and walk down the street or to conceal your identity on public property.

"Although the mask bill provides at least 8 exemptions that would not criminalize a North Dakotan who wears a mask or hood in public, it specifically forecloses the wearing of masks, at the exact times when a mask would most likely express First Amendment ideas," said Jennifer Cook, ACLU of North Dakota.

While supporters say this bill was crafted using other state's statutes, Cook says it would be declared unconstitutional in federal court.

This law excludes people:
- Under the age of seventeen​​
- Wearing a traditional holiday costume in season
- Engaged in trade and employment or in a sporting activity at which a mask is worn for the purpose of ensuring the physical safety of the wearer, or because of the nature of the occupation, trade, profession, or sporting activity
- Using a mask in a theatrical production or masquerade ball
- Wearing a mask prescribed for civil defense drills exercises, or emergencies
- Engaged in a parade, ceremony, or celebration
- Wearing a mask, hood, or device for the purpose of providing protection from the elements
​- Wearing a mask or other covering based on religious beliefs