NEW YORK Anti-Wall St protesters plan to join New York City's Halloween parade on Monday and although several people have been arrested at recent rallies for wearing masks, demonstrators will have a free pass for the holiday.
New York state has a law that bans masked gatherings and police have enforced the rule at protests by the Occupy Wall Street movement against economic inequality, which set up camp in a park in the city's financial district on September 17.
But the law, dating back to 1845, allows people to wear masks if it is for "a masquerade party or like entertainment."
"Exemptions for such occasions, including masquerade balls, are provided for under the statute," said New York Police spokesman Paul Browne when asked if police would enforce the law banning masked gatherings at the Halloween parade.
Occupy Wall Street has set up Occupy Halloween and said on its website, www.occupyhalloween.org, that protesters had been invited to join the 39th annual Village Halloween Parade.
Organizers of the parade, which attracts tens of thousands of onlookers and is broadcast live on local television, were not immediately available for comment.
Occupy Halloween urged protesters to organize costume-themed blocs, suggesting ideas such as Wall Street zombies, corporate vampires and V-masks -- the Guy Fawkes mask made popular by the graphic novel "V for Vendetta."
"For them to enforce that rule on Halloween would be downright un-American," said Occupy Halloween organizer Gan Golan said of the mask law. The parade is "another opportunity for us to be creative and let people see our message."
He could not say how many protesters they were expecting to join the parade.
Protesters say they are upset the billions of dollars in bank bailouts doled out during the recession allowed banks to resume earning huge profits while average Americans have had no relief from high unemployment and job insecurity.
They also believe the richest 1 percent of Americans do not pay their fair share in taxes.
New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman said: "Behavior that falls within the (New York state mask law's) exemption cannot be criminalized simply because it has a political message." (Editing by Todd Eastham)