Attorney Helped Save Black Men’s Lives By Calling for Suspension of Anti-Mask Law During COVID-19 Pandemic

Attorney Helped Save Black Men’s Lives By Calling for Suspension of Anti-Mask Law During COVID-19 Pandemic

by April 22, 2020

Gerald Griggs, an attorney and VP of the NAACP’s Atlanta branch, had began calling for an immediate suspension of the anti-mask law during the COVID19 pandemic to help protect the safety of Black men in Georgia. Just five days later, the Governor signed the executive order.

The 1951 law states: “A person is guilty of a misdemeanor when he wears 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.”

The punishment is a fine of $1,000 and 12 months in jail.

On April 9, 2020, the viral video in Illinois of police following a young black male and escorting him out of a supermarket because he was wearing a mask reminded Atlanta-based attorney and Atlanta NAACP VP Gerald Griggs of Georgia’s own Anti-Mask Law. Four years earlier, the Georgia NAACP led a protest of over 15-thousand people. During that protest, police informed Attorney Griggs of Georgia’s Anti-Mask law to prohibit arresting protestors.

Out of fear of more young Black men being labeled as suspicious, detained, and possibly incarcerated, Griggs began reaching out to the media, the head of the Democratic Party, State Senator Nikema Williams, and DeKalb County Judge Stacey Hydrick. After Georgia Senator Williams wrote a letter to Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued an executive order suspending Atlanta Police from making an arrest under the law.

“In the middle of a pandemic, we have to make sure we hold elected officials accountable to the will of the people. Laws should be more sensitive to the needs of public health. I want to thank Governor Kemp, Senator Williams, and Mayor Bottoms for hearing the pleas of the people and protecting their rights,” said Attorney Griggs.

Attorney Griggs has been releasing live updates about COVID-19 on his podcast. You can listen in on the podcast here


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