You may not know it, but the internet hacking group Anonymous helped launch the Occupy Wall Street movement with a video released in late August:.

During the initial protests in New York, protesters attempted to use masks similar to those used in the video, but were stymied by the police who invoked New York’s anti-mask law.

You know about the New York anti-mask law, don’t you?

You would if you read LI on May 23, 2010, when I featured the law in a post about the “Gringo Mask” being used by opponents of the Arizona immigration law:

These people need lawyers, not masks.

Because wearing a mask in public is illegal in many states, so the wearing of the Gringo Mask in and of itself would be grounds to be stopped by the police (and a resulting identity check?).

In many states, these laws grew out of the desire to have a legal basis to prohibit the wearing of hoods at Ku Klux Klan rallies. In New York, interestingly, the law “can be traced back in substance to legislation enacted in 1845 to thwart armed insurrections by Hudson Valley tenant farmers who used disguises to attack law enforcement officers.” (Citation, at 10)

New York Penal Law § 240.35(4), which has been upheld by the federal Court of Appeals (in a decision in which now Justice Sotomayor participated) makes it an offense of “loitering” for a person to be masked in public:

“Being masked or in any manner disguised by unusual or unnatural attire or facial alteration, loiters, remains or congregates in a public place with other persons so masked or disguised, or knowingly permits or aids persons so masked or disguised to congregate in a public place; except that such conduct is not unlawful when it occurs in connection with a masquerade party or like entertainment if, when such entertainment is held in a city which has promulgated regulations in connection with such affairs, permission is first obtained from the police or other appropriate authorities.”

See, this is a law blog. Sometimes.