In Media-N, CAA Conference Edition, Summer 2013, Volume 9, Number 2, ed. Pat Badani.
In September 2011, as the Occupy Wall Street encampment at Zuccotti Park swarmed with protesters in Guy Fawkes masks popularized by the hacktivist group Anonymous, the New York City Police Department resurrected an 1845 law that deemed two or more people wearing masks in public illegal, unless a masquerade party was being organized. As Occupy protesters were arrested for “loitering and wearing a mask,” some discovered that they could potentially be held in jail longer if they did not agree to submit to an iris scan, while others realized that their bail could be affected by whether or not they permitted the NYPD to perform the scan. These police actions sparked criticism from lawyers, civil libertarians, and the public, not only because the NYPD used a legally optional iris scan to set bail and length of time in prison but also because the NYPD gathered biometric data on those who had not been charged or convicted of a crime. Why does the masked protestor pose such a great threat to the state, resulting in the police’s willingness to deploy a 168-year-old law originally designed to prevent Hudson Valley tenant farmers from dressing in disguise and rioting over debt and eviction? Why does facelessness fuel the state of New York to surreptitiously construct incentives for protestors to willingly agree to biometric scans?