People will now be charged with a crime for attacking people who make them wear masks
As videos showing retail workers getting attacked and berated for asking customers to follow store mask policies continue to go viral, one state is taking a stand by making it a felony to assault retail workers who are enforcing them.
A new Illinois law signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker called Illinois Senate Bill 471 targets anyone “assaulting or battering a retail worker who is conveying public health guidance, such as requiring patrons to wear face-coverings or promoting social distancing,” according to a statement from the governor’s office.
Effectively immediately, offenders can be charged with aggravated battery, which is categorized as a Class 3 felony in the state of Illinois and can result in prison sentences of two to five years and up to $25,000 in fines.
In addition to videos showing rants from those refusing to wear masks, there have been violent acts that this law is hoping to prevent. A Target employee in California ended up with a broken left arm after helping to remove two customers who refused to wear masks. In Pennsylvania, a cashier was punched in the face three times after he told a non-mask-wearing man that he couldn’t buy a pack of cigars. And in San Antonio, a man who was told he could not board a public bus without a mask shot a passenger who was later hospitalized.
He also restated the importance of wearing masks in public settings and called for strict enforcement to help stop the spread of coronavirus. “As I’ve visited with and listened to mayors and health departments all across our state, it’s clear there is still an even greater need to get people to wear masks – especially to protect frontline workers, whether they’re at the front of a store asking you to put on your mask or whether they’re responding to 911 calls to save those in distress,” said Pritzker.
The bill gives rules allowing for flexibility and multiple warnings before any charges will be filed. “These rules provide multiple opportunities for compliance before any penalty is issued, giving local health departments and local law enforcement more leeway to support community public health in a productive manner,” the statement reads. It says that if a business refuses to comply with policies around masks and other measures to combat coronavirus, “The business can receive a class A misdemeanor and be subject to a fine ranging from $75-$2,500.”
The law also increases paid disability leave for emergency workers, firefighters, and police affected by COVID-19. “This legislation allows front line workers that have been impacted by COVID-19 to focus on recovering while sending a clear message to all our essential workers that we are behind them and will do all we can to protect their safety and well-being,” state Rep. Jay Hoffman said in the statement.
Illinois currently requires “everyone over the age of two who can medically tolerate a face covering over their nose and mouth” to wear one in public when they’re unable to social distance. Its purpose is to enforce this as much as possible given the fact that people continue to refuse to wear masks in public spaces.
“These rules will help ensure that the minority of people who refuse to act responsibly won’t take our state backward.”
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