Mayor Adams ‘strongly’ backs Hochul’s proposed mask ban for protests, subways

Mayor Adams speaks about mask ban
Mayor Eric Adams.
Credit: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office.

Mayor Eric Adams on Monday said he is a “strong supporter” of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposal to ban face masks at protests and on the city’s subways amid growing concerns over how the coverings are being used by pro-Palestine demonstrators.

Adams, during his weekly news conference, said mask-wearing should once again be legally restricted in New York following some instances at pro-Palestinian protests — where many demonstrators don face coverings — that numerous elected officials have called antisemitic. He said he believed outlawing masks, besides those used for medical purposes, would significantly curtail the number of incidents to which many have objected.

“I’m a strong supporter of the decision of stopping masks on our subway system, masks in protests and masks in other areas where it’s not health-related,” the mayor said. “I think that you’re going to see a great deal of very violent protests and some of this despicable hate we’re seeing, I think you’re gonna see it dissipate.”

The mayor said the ban should not include those who are still wearing masks for medical reasons. Many people can still be seen with face masks on the subways as COVID-19 cases are again rising nationwide.

Hochul would need the state legislature to take action to implement a mask ban. The legislature is now in recess until 2025, having ended its 2024 session on June 8.

Pro-Palestine protester wearing mask ban
A protester with a mask reading “free Palestine at a November 2023 protest.Photo by Dean Moses

A new ban on facial coverings at protests would bring the state back to where it was before the COVID-19 pandemic, when a 200-year-old law restricting masks at demonstrations was halted, giving way to mask mandates aimed at stopping the virus’ spread.

The law that had been on the books up until the pandemic allowed cops to charge anyone who was doning a mask around others in masks with loitering.

Last Thursday, amNewYork Metro reported that Adams’ office was in conversations with the governor’s team and state lawmakers about what a mask ban would look like. That afternoon, Hochul announced publicly that she is weighing a mask crackdown, following a video that circulated online Wednesday of masked protesters demanding that “zionists” identify themselves and get off of a subway car.

“Cowards cover their faces. If you believe in something, then stand up and show your face,” Adams said. “But standing on our trains, telling people ‘if you’re zionists, raise your hand and get off,’ show your face and say that.”

Another recent incident that drew the ire of local officials was a protest outside an exhibition in Lower Manhattan commemorating those killed at the Nova Music Festival by the terror group Hamas during its Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

Adams, along with other pols, called out demonstrators for lighting flares and waving flags of Hamas and Hezbollah — an armed Syrian group that many see as a terrorist organization.

The mayor said a mask ban would also make it easier for the police to identify criminals — who he contended have been utilizing the face coverings in many instances since the pandemic began. He previously even called on businesses to require patrons take off their masks in stores as another way to deter crimes like robberies.

“I think it’s going to stop a lot of these crimes we’re seeing,” he said. “People are using masks to commit crimes, to commit assaults. The difficult thing for the police department is to find suspects because of their full covering. And this is going to help us greatly.”