CLAIM: In Dayton, Ohio, city officials are telling people to wear masks because of coronavirus but just banned criminals from wearing them.
THE FACTS: Dayton commissioners approved an anti-mask law in early March, before state and national health experts began recommending people wear masks in public, to discourage hate groups from holding rallies in the city.
Social media users are sharing an outdated article to falsely suggest that while city leaders in Dayton are encouraging people to wear cloth masks, they recently outlawed the facial coverings for criminals. The inaccurate posts sharing the article mock Dayton leaders for passing a nonsensical and contradictory law during the coronavirus pandemic. Other posts have taken a screenshot of the article’s headline, turning it into a meme. “This is literally the idiocracy that is all government,” one Facebook post said.
The ordinance, passed by Dayton’s city commission on March 11, prohibits anyone from concealing their identity “during a crime” or while trying to “intimidate another.” The city ordinance was passed, in part, to discourage hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan from holding rallies after a Klan group requested a permit for a gathering this year. The request came after a handful of KKK members showed up in May 2019 at the city’s courthouse, requiring a massive police presence to keep counter protesters and Klan members from clashing. Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said she began noticing the March article about Dayton’s anti-mask ordinance was being taken out of context because social media users were tagging her in posts linking to the outdated story.
The Dayton television station that originally published the article has since updated their story to clarify the city ordinance was not passed in relation to COVID-19. “We did this before COVID was even happening,” Whaley said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “We had taken this legislation from other cities to deal with hate groups. They don’t like to show their face during hate rallies. It was a way for us to say: ‘OK, you can come but you have to show yourself.’” Other cities and states have anti-mask laws on the books to discourage Klan members from wearing hoods during public rallies and marches. In April, for example, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp temporarily suspended an anti-mask law passed in 1951 that makes it a misdemeanor to wear “a mask, hood” or other face covering to “conceal the identity of the wearer” on public property.