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Masks, Picnics and Mischief

by Disruption

Victoria

Photo Credit Karres Vroom
Photo Credit Karres Vroom
Photo Credit Karres Vroom
Photo Credit Karres Vroom
Photo Credit Karres Vroom
Photo Credit Karres Vroom
Photo Credit Karres Vroom
Photo Credit Karres Vroom

On a sunny November afternoon under the looming gaze of a holiday ferris wheel a small group of masked individuals descended upon Centennial Square located on Lekwungen Territory, otherwise known as the colonial City of Victoria. What began as a small group of three rose, one by one, to over a dozen within an hour. What did this small group of masked mischief makers do while families lined up to ride the wintertime Ferris wheel? Well, they had a picnic, shared cookies with folks out in the sun, played frisbee and jumped rope!  A mother and son broke rank in the line to jump rope too. Another woman asked a masked reveler what they were doing and after a short dialogue a group photo was taken. The cookies did not last long among the throngs of eager children and the frisbee once gone astray was tossed back by a small lad, grinning with delight.

Before long two men with guns, armor and badges arrived. You see the militant duo were not there because they were against protest, privacy, or interested in policing picnics (or so they said). No, indeed, they were only there to protect, of all things, the moods of children in the park. Their claim was that they had received a complaint from a concerned parent that their child was afraid of people playing in masks. They went on to explain that although they wouldn't want to, “charge you all with mischief, as we legally can right now” they had an obligation to “the children and families who just came here to have fun”.

It was surely a good thing that these two weapon-clad strangers had arrived to put a stop to the potentially mischievous rope-skippers! In the name of children’s happiness they repeatedly asked this group take off their masks, and repeatedly they were met with apathy and refusal.  Evidently people in masks are not allowed to have fun.

Our “Save the Day” goons weren't done lending a hand just yet. They had a great solution for this horror packed picnic.

The picnic peddling potential mischief-makers were instructed to move their picnic to the other side of the ferris wheel line.

About 20 feet, to be clear.

Convinced the children would feel better now that the masked cookie sharers were removed about 15 feet east of the line (instead of the dangerously close 15 feet north of the line where they had previously operated their skipping-and-frisbee fright-factory) the gun wielding, authoritarian happiness patrol left the masked picnic with one final piece of enforced funcouragment: “We hope we don't have to come back here”.

They didn't, and soon the kids were happily playing again amid face painting, rope skipping, and a sunny afternoon picnic.

You may have heard about Bill C 309 or the "Fucked up Mask Act" (officially called the Preventing Persons from Concealing Their Identity during Riots and Unlawful Assemblies Act.).

It's the one where you can get up to ten years for concealing your identity at a 'riot' or five for concealing your identity at an unlawful protest.

"This enactment amends the Criminal Code to make it an offence to wear a mask or other disguise to conceal one’s identity while taking part in a riot or an unlawful assembly."

FIVE years in the industrial prison complex.

 It passed into law on Wednesday Nov. 7th 2012.

Apparently an unlawful assembly applies to any group of three or more people who provoke fears or have intentions of disturbing the peace “tumultuously.” On the other hand the term “riot” ignores intent, and only applies to unlawful assemblies that are in full tumult.

What does it mean to “disturb the peace tumultuously” anyway? What the hell is a full tumult? Does jumping rope with two friends while in masks qualify? Was the peace disturbed when those kids were eating those cookies? What about when that Frizbee got too close to the line up?

Was a child frightened of the appearance of a stranger tumultuous enough to be considered criminal?

Taking away the masks amounts to nothing short of bullying tactics. It is not just an excuse to arrest people without them having actually done anything dangerous or violent, but a statement to people that if they want to stand up for themselves then they are only allowed to do it if the government can easily know who they are. That idea is not only Orwellian, but it subverts the ideal of people having the power to protect themselves from the State and their Police. It essentially means that if you want to stand up to something much bigger and more powerful then you, then you have to subject your identity to the very thing you fear violence from in the first place.

The need for some folks to conceal their identity when participating in political actions or acts of resistance is a very real one. People of colour, folks new to Canada or without state sanctioned status, gender queer comrades, Indigenous people and those with records with the cops already or who look street involved are very likely to experience violence at the hands of Cops which is not the same risk for their white middle class allies.

In our Police State where Police are getting really good at profiling activists, where lists are being taken and individuals involved in resistance are being documented, masks afford protection from invasive surveillance, which is already a part of our day-to-day reality. Wearing a mask protects us from increased police harassment for standing for what we believe in. It allows our comrades to resist being bullied and stand with us.

When we act in resistance or protest we do not only put ourselves at risk with the Police State, but also within systems and institutions where we risk losing our jobs, outing ourselves to oppressors and putting ourselves in danger. Anonymity allows us to blow whistles, speak to power without direct retribution and participate in dissent regardless of how others perceive us. You could lose your job working for a pro-Israeli corporation if you were seen at a pro-Palestinian event. At a pride parade you could face social, career or other repercussions just for showing up. People who are being harassed, women survivors for example, who want to be politically active, must be able to protect themselves in some instance from being identified by their abuser.

Anonymity is powerful. When we are leaderless we are powerful. We are not tied to our egos and identities, but we stand as people in solidarity or resistance. This is our commitment to horizontal movements. We disguise our identities so that our comrades and friends at risk are protected in their need to disguise theirs. When we are a sea of masks not one of us can be singled out, we stand strong in our difference and in our shared resistance.

On November 7th 2012 that strength was taken away from us by law, but we cannot allow it to be taken away from us in practice. Masks don't just hide us, they shield us, they unify us, they empower us and allow us to be in solidarity with those who cannot safely act politically.  They protect our jobs and families, they break down the barriers between us, they help us identify allies in strangers, and they armor us against the violence and oppression of a police state that want us exposed and alone.

Masks galvanize us in resistance and we cannot let that be taken away.

Authored by Disruption: Through a series of late night discussions, long distance communications and collaborative writing.

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Comments

good action.  cops are

good action.  cops are literally drooling at the mouth in anticipation of enforcing the mask ban, altho it only applies to riots and unlawful assembly.  during a protest a few months ago the cops were trying to tell people wearing masks that it was now illegal, even tho' the new law hadn't even been passed and wouldn't have applied since it was neither a riot nor an unlawful assembly.  it would be good to see more people wearing masks at rallies even if just to counter the anti-masking propaganda from the police and state.

Masking

The only creatures who can justify wearing masks are raccoons, and cowards.

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