New York Governor Kathy Hochul is considering reinstating a ban on face masks in the city’s subway system due to concerns about masked individuals using them to carry out antisemitic attacks. Hochul has not provided specific details about the policy or who may be exempt from it, but she is motivated to address the issue after a recent incident where protesters wearing masks took over a subway car and made alarming statements about Hitler and Jews.

The potential ban on face masks comes as New York City continues to navigate the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, during which masks became a common sight to slow the spread of the virus. However, with the availability of vaccines and a decrease in transmission rates, recommendations to wear masks have been lifted. The history of face coverings in New York dates back to 1845 when they were initially banned in response to violent attacks, and the ban was only lifted in 2020 in response to the pandemic.

Governor Hochul’s concern about individuals using masks to commit crimes has garnered support from New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who emphasized the need to prevent individuals from hiding behind masks to carry out criminal or threatening behavior. Pro-Palestinian demonstrators have highlighted the importance of wearing masks for protection against police surveillance and potential repercussions from employers in certain industries.

Mayor Adams echoed Hochul’s sentiments by emphasizing the importance of transparency and accountability in public spaces like subways and protests. He referenced civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. who did not hide their faces while standing up for their beliefs, contrasting them with groups like the Ku Klux Klan who concealed their identities to perpetrate harmful actions.

The issue of face masks in public spaces is complex and raises questions about safety, accountability, and individual rights. Both Governor Hochul and Mayor Adams are committed to addressing these concerns while balancing the needs of the community and ensuring that public spaces remain safe and inclusive for all residents. The potential ban on face masks in the New York City subway system reflects a larger conversation about the role of masks in society post-pandemic and the implications for public safety and civil discourse.