Did Curfews Work? Cities Begin to Roll Back Restrictions

Demonstrators are arrested for a curfew violation Wednesday, June 3, 2020 in downtown Los Angeles during a protest over the death of George Floyd who died May 25 after he was restrained by Minneapolis police.

Demonstrators are arrested for a curfew violation Wednesday, June 3, 2020 in downtown Los Angeles during a protest over the death of George Floyd who died May 25 after he was restrained by Minneapolis police. AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Police say curfews helped quell violence as they begin to lift restrictions, but civil liberties advocates say that they are actually used to stop peaceful protests.

City leaders across the country imposed curfews over the last week, saying they wanted to prevent massive protests against police brutality from turning violent. But night after night, protesters continued to demonstrate after dark, and now some cities are now rolling back those restrictions.

In some cities, mayors and law enforcement leaders say protests have stayed peaceful for several nights and the curfews are no longer needed. Elsewhere, civil liberties advocates have filed lawsuits to challenge the legality of the restrictions.

In Washington, D.C., a nightly curfew had been in effect since Sunday after looters smashed out the windows of several businesses and ransacked the stores. Both the mayor and police chief said the curfew served its purpose, allowing officers to step in to arrest hundreds of people over the last few nights to stop small spurts of violence from getting out of control. Thursday will be the first night the city goes without a curfew.

“The curfew gives the police the ability to stop the violence that we saw two nights during the course of these events,” said Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham at a news conference this week. “It’s not a perfect system but I believe it was very effective in ramping down the level of violence.”

Newsham pointed to the number of arrests made by D.C. police, which dropped from a high of 289 on Monday night to zero arrests Wednesday night despite widespread protest activity across the nation’s capital after the 8 p.m. curfew.

“We have allowed peaceful protests every night,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser. “What we are concerned about are people who are not peaceful and are destroying our city.”

In Washington, D.C. and across the country, protesters took to the streets to demand justice for George Floyd, a black man who died after a white officer in Minneapolis kneeled on his neck. Video of the arrest showed the officer continuing to pin Floyd with his knee for more than eight minutes, even after he stopped moving and lost consciousness. The officer has since been arrested and is now charged with second-degree murder.

The breadth and scope of curfews enacted this week across the country in reaction to the protests “is quite unprecedented,” said Jennifer Earl, a sociology professor at the University of Arizona and expert on social movements.

But they don’t always work as planned, she said.  

“If the reason you are protesting is because you think police have too much discretion and use that to get away with hurting people and then you do something like a curfew… that really just gives the sense that the reason you are out there protesting is really important,” Earl said. “Police may think they are using a strategy to suppress protests, but actually it fans protests.”

In some states, police have balked at curfews implemented by political leaders, calling them unnecessary. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey imposed a statewide 8 p.m. curfew that stays in effect until Monday, but law enforcement in at least four counties said they would not enforce it unless rioting occurred.   

But police in some cities appear to be using curfews as a way to violently crack down on protests and to silent demonstrations against police misconduct, said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. She questions why curfews are necessary if law enforcement are already able to arrest and charge individuals with burglary or rioting if they commit crimes.

“You already have laws prohibiting criminal acts and police have the ability to arrest based on those laws,” said Verheyden-Hilliard, whose legal nonprofit specializes in free speech and police misconduct cases.  “I believe many of [the curfews] are being imposed and effectuated with an eye to subduing and repressing the demonstrations.”

PCJF is currently reviewing complaints involving the D.C. police department’s treatment and mass arrest of protesters during a Monday night standoff on Swann Street that got national attention, Verheyden-Hilliard said.

She also pointed to clashes between police and protesters in New York as particularly egregious. In New York, critics have lambasted Mayor Bill de Blasio over NYPD’s protest response, but the mayor on Thursday defended police and his curfew, saying he thought the department had shown “a lot of restraint.”

Elsewhere, legal challenges are already being mounted against some curfews.

In Cleveland, Ohio, where an 8 p.m. curfew has been in place every day since Saturday, a local attorney challenged the constitutionality of the restrictions. The lawsuit was withdrawn Thursday after the city announced it would not seek to extend the curfew past Friday.

In California, civil liberties advocates filed a lawsuit Thursday to challenge the legality of curfews enacted in Los Angeles, Los Angeles County and San Bernardino.

 “They are attempting to suppress our ability to fully mobilize and focus full attention on the true issue of concern in the protests — police violence against black people,” said Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter - Los Angeles.

The same day the lawsuit was filed, several cities in the region announced they would no longer keep curfews in place. Los Angeles County Sheriff, Alex Villanueva, said “current situational awareness and the recent pattern of peaceful actions by protesters” made the curfew no longer necessary.

The sheriff’s office came under fire this week after video emerged of deputies firing pepper balls at fleeing protesters from a vehicle.

In addition to giving protesters a target, curfews may also have the unintended effect of emboldening aggressive enforcement by officers, Earl said.

“Curfew broadly extends the authority of police to have probable cause with pretty much anyone they are interacting with,” she said. “That creates a really serious civil liberties situation.”

Andrea Noble is a staff correspondent with Route Fifty.

NEXT STORY: 'A Parade, Not A Protest': An Interview With Sheriff Who Took Off Riot Gear, Walked with Protesters

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.