CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Two individuals at Charlotte Pride protesting against anti-LGBT protesters were arrested on Saturday by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department after refusing to remove their masks.
Related: Watch the opening ceremony of Charlotte Pride 2016
In video captured during a Facebook live video stream by WCNC, you can see a Charlotte Pride staffer asking them to remove their masks. After stating they believe they have the right to wear them and refusing to take them off, police move in and make arrests.
This is the first year the festival has been designated an extraordinary event, and while the extraordinary event ordinance declares that masks and scarves are not to be worn in order to intentionally hide one’s identity while committing a crime it is unclear what, if any, crime they were committing.
Related: Here’s the partnership statement Charlotte Pride wanted the Queer and Trans People of Color Collective to sign
They were both also carrying bags, one a backpack and the other a satchel style bag, which is also dealt with in the ordinance.
It states that it is unlawful to possess “a backpack, duffel bag, satchel, cooler or other item carried with the intent to conceal weapons or other prohibited items.”
The mask seems to have been what was at issue, however, and not the bags.
We will continue to follow this story and offer updates as they become available. Watch video footage of the arrests below.
UPDATE (8/21 10:20 a.m.) – We have learned that there is an anti-mask law in North Carolina, prohibiting anyone from wearing them on “public ways.”
Enacted legislation Article 4A of Chapter 14 states that, “No person or persons at least 16 years of age shall, while wearing any mask, hood or device whereby the person, face or voice is disguised as to conceal the identity of the wearer, enter, be or appear upon any lane, walkway, alley, street, road, highway or other public way in this State.”
There are exemptions, although they do not appear to be relevant in this case.
The law was passed in 1953, in response to Ku Klux Klan members hiding their identities with hoods. Anti-mask laws exists in a number of states.
Occupy protesters, many of whom wore Guy Fawkes masks during protests, were targeted by these laws, as have other protesters.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has argued that these laws are unconstitutional, arguing they violate the First Amendment. So far they have held up against legal challenges.
UPDATE 2 (8/21 12 P.M.) – While nothing has been officially confirmed, we believe we have identified the two men who were arrested as Michael Behrle and Daniel Gardner. Both were charged with second degree trespass.
Again, nothing has been confirmed. This has been determined by looking at the video and the mugshots and finding matches.
Behrle was previously arrested over a flag burning incident during the Occupy movement protests.
UPDATE 3 (8/23 8 P.M.) – We have received an official statement from Lt. David Robinson of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department concerning the arrests. The charges against both men have been dropped. The statement follows.
The goal of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department during the Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade was to maintain a safe environment in the center city for participants to attend.
There were 2 adult arrests in the center city area recorded during the event hours, both for trespassing.
Of the two arrests made, subsequent discussion regarding the charges of trespassing and finding a more appropriate solution were examined by CMPD personnel. As a result, both arrests were later voided and cleared for each arrestee by officers.