The Detroit City Council on Tuesday, June 17, after a fiery hearing with public comments from the ACLU, community leaders including Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of Detroit Branch NAACP, voted to limit the curfew in Detroit during the Ford Fireworks and Detroit River Days festival. The council voted against the Detroit police proposed curfew for River Days in a 4-3 vote. The council in a 5-2 vote approved a less invasive curfew for minors for the Ford Fireworks which is against what the Detroit Police Department initially wanted.
Prior to the vote, council members expressed deep-rooted concern regarding the proposed expansion of the City of Detroit curfew which would prohibit Detroit youth under the age of 18 from being out after 8 p.m. without an adult during a four-day span, June 19-22, when the Detroit Fireworks and Detroit River Days occur.
The audience, comprised of city activists, law officials, young people and concerned citizens, listened to City of Detroit corporate counsel, Melvin “Butch” Hollowell present Detroit police chief James Craig’s plan to expand on the current citywide curfew for minors, and impose more stringent restrictions to keep young people off the streets of downtown Detroit from 8 p.m. on Friday, June 19, to 6 a.m. on Monday, June 22.
Following Hollowell’s presentation Detroit Council members unleashed a barrage of questions regarding specifics of the proposed expanded curfew and requested additional information regarding possible exceptions or exemptions for specific and extending circumstances.
“I don’t want to put any young person’s career put at risk if this was to pass. What if you have a good kid, a Cass Tech student with a promising career, who gets caught up and is found in violation?” asked city council member Gabe Leland. “Would a college be able to pull up a report on that child and find out that they had some involvement in this very egregious curfew?”
Hollowell responded that a citation would not be issued to the child, but to the parent or legal guardian citing them for failure to supervise the child. Offending parents would receive a misdemeanor citation for “failure to supervise,” which would be punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Leland pressed Hollowell for assurances that curfew violations would not directly impact a young person’s chances of college admissions or employment, but Hollowell admitted guarantees were not possible.
“(City departments) get requests on police stops under the Freedom of Information act all the time, but I cannot guarantee that an employer would not be able to trace this to the child.”
The city annually enforces a citywide curfew on minors from 6 p.m. on Sunday night to 6 a.m. Monday for the Detroit Fireworks. The curfew has been in place and renewed each year since 2012 when gang violence and shooting erupted during past fireworks shows causing severe injuries.
“We wouldn’t even be here having as much conversation about this (proposed curfew) if in fact we enforced what we have on the books now. We’ve had a curfew all of the time, so if we acted like we had a curfew we wouldn’t be here now,” commented City Council member Janee’ Ayers.
Detroit has a year-round curfew for minors 17 and under at 10 p.m. and is lifted at 6 a.m. The city has also instituted a special curfew for the three-day Devil’s Night period leading up to and including Halloween. The curfew has been in effect for 19 years,
During the public comments section of the hearing, Rev. Anthony excited the crowd with an impassioned discourse which pointed out the racial overtones of the proposed legislation.
“Everyone should expect to have a fun, safe time with their friends and families when they attend events in the city,” said Anthony. “However, implementing a curfew that will unfairly target young people in the city of Detroit is not the most effective solution to these critical issues. It could also give unnecessary credence to the often-discussed issue of only targeting people of color in situations such as this.
“The question of whether or not curfews curtail violence or promote a safer community has never been empirically substantiated to our knowledge. However, the question of maintaining civil liberty as a necessity for our democracy has been substantiated since the founding of our nation.”