The Anti-Mask League of 1919

timkmak: A thread about the Anti-Mask League of 1919. (Unrolled.)

Initial mask wearing was good -- around 80 percent. By November cases were down, and public health officials recommended re-opening the city. Residents rushed to entertainment venues after having been denied this communal joy for months. The Mayor himself was fined by his own police chief after going to a show without a mask.

But a second wave surged in Dec 1918, and SF's Health Officer again urged people to wear masks voluntarily. [...]

San Francisco residents were fed up. This was the second wave of the pandemic, and they had already spent months between Sept and Nov being hassled, fined and even arrested for not having a mask on. Challenges of constitutionality were heard.

Christian Scientists objected, arguing that it was "subversive of personal liberty and constitutional rights." Civil libertarians argued that if health officials could force them to wear masks, then it could force them to inoculate "or any experiment or indignity." [...]

Over 2,000 people attended an event formed by San Franciscans called themselves 'THE ANTI-MASK LEAGUE,' denouncing the mandatory masking ordinance. [...] Moderates in the Anti-Mask League wanted to circulate an anti-mask petition. Extremists wanted to initiate recall proceedings of SF's Public Health Officer. [...]

We learn through this episode that various groups of Americans have been pushing back against public health measures for more than a hundred years -- and for similar reasons!


As of 8pm tonight, wearing a mask in public places around other people who are also wearing masks is both forbidden and required by New York law. I'm sure the police will enforce these contradictory mandates in a completely rational & nondiscriminatory fashion. [...]

Although @mjs_DC is undoubtedly right that many anti-mask laws were passed to fight the KKK, New York's anti-mask law actually dates to 1845 when it was passed to suppress the "anti-rent movement" of upstate tenant farmers.

NY's anti-mask law has been used against radicals ever since. In 2004, a state appeals court upheld the convictions of 11 anarchists who "covered their faces with bandanas while shouting epithets and political slogans during a May Day demonstration in Union Square Park."

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3 Responses:

  1. It All Recycles In The Ens says:

    Something about history not repeating, but still rhyming.

  2. Marcello says:

    Here in northern italy we're regionally ruled by the xenophobic Lega Nord party, in the past they made making wearing any kind of hijab outlawed one of their main policies, banning its use basically anywhere they could.

    As of last week wearing a mask (or covering your mouth/nose area with a scarf/bandanna/anything since masks are clearly not actually available) is mandatory when outside.

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