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2021 Shiesty Season Spring Fest

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The city of Philadelphia has seen a surge in violent crime since the start of the pandemic, including a record number of homicides in 2021. According to the Grio, that number fell from 562 to 516 last year, but 2022’s numbers were still significantly higher than pre-pandemic statistics. Last Thursday, the Philadelphia City Council passed legislation aimed at reducing crime in the city, not by banning firearms or other deadly weapons, but by banning ski masks. Apparently, the idea is that people will be less inclined to commit violent crimes if they can’t hide their faces, but opponents of the measure fear it will cause citizens who have done nothing wrong to be unfairly targeted.

From the Grio:

The legislation passed on Thursday with a 13-2 vote, and now goes to Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney. A spokesperson said he would review the legislation and “looks forward to our ongoing work with City Council on the urgent matter of ensuring public safety.”

The measure would ban ski masks, or balaclavas, in public spaces like schools, recreation centers, parks, city-owned buildings and on public transportation. It defines the garment as a close-fitting covering over the whole head, with holes only for the eyes, nose, or mouth.

A $250 fine would be imposed against anyone who violates the law. It has exceptions for religious garb and protests.

Setting aside the obvious problematicness of implementing an anti-ski mask law in a northern state during the beginning of winter, this measure definitely has the potential to result in an increase in profiling, especially for a certain racial group that already lives with too much of it with or without a mask on. That’s why the measure drew criticism, not only from opposing members of the council, but from members of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, which argued there was no evidence to support the idea that ski masks encourage people to commit crimes.

“Giving police the authority to stop civilians without suspicion of unlawful activity is unconstitutional,” Solomon Furious Worlds, an attorney for the ACLU, said in a statement.

It’s worth noting that Philadelphia Mayor-elect Cherelle Parker—who won her election by promising to be tough on crime—had already been criticized over her position that cops should be able to stop people based on “reasonable suspicion,” a statement that could be interpreted as a call for the return of stop-and-frisk, as Black people know all too well that what police consider “reasonable” can be subjective depending on who the target of their “suspicion” is. 

The mask’s recent popularity can partially be credited to Memphis rapper Pooh Shiesty, who’s seen wearing it so much, that it’s been nicknamed the “Shiesty mask.”

So, what do y’all think? Does the law against ski masks make sense, given the rise in crime, or is it just more discriminatory profiling waiting to happen?

See how social media is debating the ban below.