Sheriff, school board member respond to report on law concerning masks on government property
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon responded to a WHQR report referring to a state law making it illegal for people to conceal their identity on government property.
The story by Ben Schachtman focused on a letter from District Attorney Ben David to McMahon after the sheriff asked for guidance on the issue. The story centered on members of the Proud Boys who have have attended public meetings on government property while wearing masks.
“It makes a couple of points, which Ithink are all important,” Schatchtman told WECT. “The first is that the law is still on the books, still applies, and has never been repealed, is very much in full effect. The second point is that wearing the mask is the crime. You do not have to wear the mask and commit a subsequent crime, which is something we had heard from sheriff’s deputies in the past. So, they do not have to wait for a Proud Boy, or any other person who is masked, to assault someone or have a weapon. It is the wearing of the mask to conceal your identity that is the crime.”
David, after consulting with prosecutors and other experts in the field, said in a letter to McMahon that a 1953 state law made it illegal for people to conceal their identity on government properly.
“You don’t have to take someone’s word for it, if they say ‘I am wearing this gaiter for public health reasons.’ You can take into account that they have told various media outlets that the only reason they wear masks is that they are concerned about left-wing activists review bombing their business, or coming to their houses or harassing them in some way,” Schachtman expalined. “They’ve been very serious that the masks are only for the purpose of concealing their identity, which is the very thing the law identifies as being illegal.”
A law passed early in the COVID pandemic made an exception for medical mask.
“The sheriffs office point of view, as expressed by Lt. Brewer, is that they do not want to get into an argument with the Proud Boys about the intentionality of the masks,” Schachtman said. “The only thing I can say to that is, Ben David’s letter does address it a little bit saying ‘you can basically take a broader view of this’.”
The sheriff told WHQR that it’s an “all or nothing” situation.
“Since the exemption for the wearing of masks, I have not differentiated in what type of mask someone wears and I’m not going to start now,” Sheriff McMahon told WECT. “We have ways to identify people. If I need to identify someone, I will have them remove their mask for identification purposes.”
Stephanie Kraybill, a member of the New Hanover Board of Education, told WECT Friday that she has asked for the matter to be placed on the agenda for board consideration.
“It has recently come to the NHC Board of Education’s attention that some of the attendees at our meetings have been in violation of NC General Statute 14-12.8 (paraphrasing) by wearing masks in a public place that conceal the identity of said persons,” she said. “To that end, I have asked for this matter to be placed on the agenda for the February 28, 2023 Agenda Review Meeting, which in turn, determines what is actually discussed at the March Regular Board Meeting on March 7, 2023. Both meetings are open meetings and will be held at the Board of Education Center.”
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