Governor Kemp urged to suspend state anti-mask law

State Senator Nikema WIlliams is urging Gov. Brian Kemp to temporarily suspend the state's anti-mask law during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

The law states that it is a misdemeanor to wear "a mask, hood, or device by which any portion of the face is so hidden, concealed, or covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer and is upon any public way or public property or upon the private property of another without the written permission of the owner or occupier of the property to do so."

There are exceptions to the law, including gas masks for drills and emergencies, theatrical productions, as a costume on a holiday and for physical safety for a job or a sport. 

This was a law that was put in place to combat the KKK, but Williams says the law could have some different consequences now, especially on the African American community.

"People are using whatever they have at home, bandannas, scarves, to put across their faces. I don't want that to be misconstrued," Williams said. "I don't want anyone to put their health and safety on the line from wearing a mask because they don't want to be profiled in a grocery store or they're picking up medicine at a pharmacy." 

Williams expressed her concern in a letter to Governor Kemp, asking him to temporarily suspend the law until the state of emergency has been lifted. 

"I'm not asking for anything to be overturned permanently, just a temporary ease," Williams said. 

The Governor's office sent FOX 5 this statement in response: 

“To fight COVID-19, we continue to follow public health recommendations and take action to keep Georgians safe. According to the CDC, wearing a mask in public may mitigate the spread of coronavirus. We are reviewing state law to ensure there are no unnecessary obstacles to following this guidance.”

On Friday, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued an executive order to stop Atlanta police officers from enforcing the anti-mask law for the next 60 days. 

Williams says she hopes something like this is put in place statewide.

"We need to make sure we have proper protocols in place that will protect all Georgians," Williams said.