‘No Slopes, No Ski Masks’: Tio Hardiman Calls for Ban on Ski Masks (Chicago, IL) — Since early 2020, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, masks have become commonplace in Chicago and much of the world. Mask mandates, however useful in helping to slow the spread of COVID, have bred a lackadaisical attitude toward face coverings. People are no longer alarmed as they had been in years past when seeing a person wearing a face-covering strolling toward them. Experts say that this has led to a comfort among criminals who are walking freely while concealing their identities with an obviously brazen attitude. According to nonviolence activist and Executive Director of Violence Interrupters Tio Hardiman, this needs to stop and Illinois should to join other states in banning ski masks.
“If a person is not going skiing, they should not have on a full face ski mask,” Hardiman said. “Full face ski masks appear to give criminals an edge… It’s making the criminals emboldened. Almost like they’re invincible.” Empowered by the now-ordinary use of face masks, criminals are taking advantage of the mandates to obscure their identities while committing the most heinous crimes.
According to Hardiman, crimes involving ski masks and other full-face coverings are up. Illinois, and Chicago in particular, would benefit tremendously from a ban on ski masks, especially now.
Last November, three men donning ski masks kidnapped a girl in the Austin neighborhood. Witnesses provided a description of the vehicle but could not identify the men involved. Twice already this week, ski mask-wearing men attempted to lure children into a vehicle. Once again, this happened in Austin. Last month, a Dan Ryan carjacking was caught on video. But the carjacker was wearing a ski mask. A postal worker in Matteson was robbed at gunpoint three weeks ago by a man wearing a ski mask. The stories are endless and share a common theme: ski masks. Many of the suspects are never apprehended.
According to Chicago Police Department data, violent crimes, thefts, carjackings, and robberies have risen sharply in the years since the onset of the pandemic. In 2019, there were 43,718 reports of such crimes. Thus far in 2022, with the quarantine days over and a more general comfort in moving about in public spaces, there have been 56,541 of these crimes reported. And there are still more than 6 weeks left in the year.
“These statistics are not surprising,” explained Hardiman. “The effects of the pandemic and a bad economy combined with the comfort everyone has with face coverings, had led to a huge increase in crimes by individuals wearing ski masks. And now, it’s even more difficult to identify the perpetrators because we can’t see their faces.”
Several states have some style of law on their books either banning face coverings altogether or making a face covering illegal in certain circumstances, including Alabama, California, Connecticut, Washington D.C., Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, North Dakota, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Laws banning face coverings in the US date back to the 1800’s, and many of them were born out of an attempt to thwart Ku Klux Klan members from harassing their victims. “That right there is a perfect example,” said Hardiman. He continued, “The KKK were committing heinous crimes, assaulting and killing innocent black men, women, and children. And we couldn’t see their faces. They were hiding under a white hood. These criminals today are hiding too, and we should not allow it any more.”
Opponents of the law say that to ban a face covering is a violation of First Amendment Rights, however several courts nationwide have upheld anti mask laws. In fact, Georgia’s Supreme Court found that the wearing of a mask was an act of intimidation and a threat of violence, and therefore is not protected by the First Amendment. It should also be noted that many European countries also have laws, some centuries old, that outlaw face coverings. Some of these countries are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
“I believe Illinois needs a law where people wearing full face ski masks cannot dine in any restaurant, enter any banks, or be in public with their whole face covered. They should not be outside their own homes or businesses with a full face ski mask on. They should not be able to knock on anybody’s door with a full face ski mask on. If the police see anyone driving with a full face ski mask on, that should raise suspicion,” Hardiman concluded. “I don’t see any ski slopes in Chicago. No slopes, no ski masks!”
‘No Slopes, No Ski Masks’: Tio Hardiman Calls for Ban on Ski Masks