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Portland may ban masked protesters like antifa in effort to crack down on violent clashes
City officials in Portland, Oregon are considering banning masks for protesters in an effort to address clashes between protesters, Th Wall Street Journal reported.
The ban was first called for by Police Chief Danielle Outlaw after conservative writer Andy Ngo said he was attacked by antifa, or antifascist protesters, who often wear masks during their rallies. The group was protesting a march last month by the far-right Proud Boys, a self-described "chauvinistic men's group."
"A lot of people are emboldened because they know they can't be identified," Outlaw said at a news conference, according to the Journal.
Eileen Park, a spokesperson for Mayor Ted Wheeler (D), said officials have been discussing banning the wearing of a mask to evade identification for criminal activity in the city. Park said the mayor "wants to weigh his options thoroughly and hear concerns from community leaders before making a decision."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon told the news outlet that the law could limit freedom of speech protections.
"A policy that prohibits wearing a mask to a protest not only risks chilling First Amendment-protected activities, particularly for those who wear 'masks' for political and religious reasons, it misses the issue entirely," spokeswoman Sarah Armstrong said. "Behavior is the issue, not the mask."
The Journal reported 15 states have banned masks at protests and rallies, although some bans were implemented to target the Ku Klux Klan.
The proposed ban comes after repeated violent clashes between right-wing and left-wing protesters in Portland in recent years.