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Ban on Klan masks upheld by court

AFP, France
Jan. 22, 2004 • Friday January 23, 2004

A New York federal appeals court has ruled that a state ban on wearing masks at public meetings is constitutional, overturning a lower court ruling that favoured the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan.

The previous ruling had found that New York enforced the ban selectively against the Ku Klux Klan, whose members are known for their tall, white, cone-shaped hats and eyelet masks.

The Klan had argued that the masks were expressive of their beliefs and that the right to anonymous expression was guaranteed by the US Constitution.

However, the three-judge appeals court ruled yesterday that simply wearing the well-recognised robe and hood was enough to link the wearer with the Klan.

“The expressive force of the mask is, therefore, redundant,” the court said.

The ruling ends a case that stretches back to 1999, when a Klan request for a parade permit was turned down by the New York City Police Department on the basis of the anti-mask law.

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