The Case for Covering Up To Protect Your Privacy

A Collective Stand

 

People often argue that protest is about taking a public stand in support of individual beliefs. If you cover your face you are refusing to take personal accountability for how you act in support of those beliefs.

Taking a public stand in support of individual beliefs is important but on the streets at protests, we are making a collective stand, not just an individual one.

Our presence together – as part of a wider movement nationally or globally – is what makes a protest a success.

An Act of Solidarity

An Act of Solidarity

 

The right to anonymity during a protest may represent the main deciding factor for many about whether they are willing or able to ‘stand up and be counted’ at all, rather than acting as a barrier.

Examples include international students and who are worried about the possibility that their participation in a demonstration might impact on their studies.

People awaiting the outcome of asylum claims may not want immigration services to know they have been politically active and may worry about negative consequences for relatives in their country of origin (something Congolese protesters told us in 2011).

 

An Act of Solidarity

 

Education and youth workers have been warned that their participation in anti-fascist demonstrations would have a detrimental impact on their careers, or even lead to dismissal.

Young Muslims may be understandably wary of unwarranted attention from the government’s ‘Prevent’ programme.

Antifascists and hunt sabs may have concerns that their faces might end up on a far-right website or targeting by hunt supporters.

 

 

International Lessons

We Cover Up So We Are Visible

 

We can also learn from groups like the Zapatista EZLN in Mexico, who argue that masks are a rejection of traditional representative politics, in favour of direct democracy, equality and undermining hierarchy and authoritarianism.

Wearing masks has a powerful impact – it is a way for indigenous peoples who have been ignored for centuries to finally be seen.

Hiding your face in public demonstrates a rejection of politics with “spokespersons”, judgements about individual respectability and appearance that ‘represent’ parties and their members. The idea that everyone, regardless of their identity, can participate in consensus decision-making is core to our beliefs and a rejection of hierarchy and authoritarianism.

What We Are Calling For

A Symbol Against Surveilance

 

If everyone decides to wear a mask, it no longer perceived as a stereotypical symbol of a ‘violent’ minority. Instead, it is a symbol of our collective solidarity and of our rejection of intrusive police surveillance.

If masks become commonplace at protests, it becomes more difficult for magistrates and judges to take an immediately negative view of covering our faces.

If more people wear them, especially in ‘peaceful’ circumstances, it becomes harder for the police to justify a mask as ‘reasonable suspicion’ for using stop and search powers.