Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has issued an executive order preventing the city’s police from arresting black men for wearing surgical masks over their nose and mouth to protect them from the coronavirus.
Mayor Bottoms signed the order after reading a news article about a Walmart store security guard ordering two black men Diangelo Jackson and Jermon Best to leave the store in Wood River, Illinois because they were wearing surgical masks.
Best and Jackson were the only ones wearing masks in the store to ward off the spread of COVID-19. They were wearing masks well before elected officials began requiring almost everyone to wear them due to the large numbers of men, women, and children becoming infected or dying of COVID-19.
Brad Wells, Wood River’s police chief, said the unnamed guard was mistaken about the store’s policy concerning the wearing of masks.
Mayor Bottoms signed the executive order after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp suspended a 1951 law, which was enacted to keep a check on members of the Klu Klux Klan, a white terrorist organization.
The law states: “A person is guilty of a misdemeanor when he wears a mask, hood or device by which any portion of the face is so hidden, concealed, or covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer and is upon public property or the native property of another without the written permission of the owner or occupier of the property to do so.”
Under this law, if a person is convicted of the misdemeanor, he or she is fined $1,000 and sentenced to a year in jail.
However, Kemp, Bottoms, and many blacks have expressed the fear that black men are unfairly targeted by police for protective masks.