DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – A proposal to extend a citywide curfew for Detroit youth during the weekend of the annual fireworks show is being debated by the City Council — but some are saying the move is unconstitutional.
The city has long imposed a curfew during the fireworks, but police are requesting that it be stretched to four days — from June 19 through June 22. The timeframe covers the River Days festival along the riverfront, as well as the fireworks on the Detroit River.
“I wholeheartedly support the concept of doing this on fireworks night, but expanding this from Friday through Sunday — I have some concerns,” Council member Andre Spivey told WWJ’s Charlie Langton. “I don’t want to quarantine an entire city’s 18 and under (population) for a three-day weekend.”
Under the proposed emergency ordinance, anyone age 17 and under would be prohibited from being away from home without a parent or guardian between the hours of 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., even if they’re miles from the Detroit River. Exceptions would be made for those traveling to and from work, a recognized educational institution or organized sports.
“There are some exemptions, but then we get into some historical aspect that you’re carrying papers around to prove that you’re allowed to be out with a letter written by your parents,” said Spivey. “I don’t think you need to go there.”
If youth are caught unsupervised during curfew hours, they could be detained and their parents fined upwards of $500.
Spivey said the expanded curfew seems to have “racial overtones” in the predominantly black city.
“The reality is, when we look at footage from what happened last year and in years past, we have seen the incidents occur by African American males. So, I would hope that this is not racially motivated,” he said. “I wouldn’t want something like this to ensue that we’re kicking folks off of the Detroit riverfront and pushing them backwards.”
Police have maintained that the curfew is not meant to stereotype or criminalize minors, but instead is meant to keep them safe.
Spivey said he’s not against the police, he actually wants to help them — but he wants to make sure everything is done in a responsible manner.
“We should give them a tool, but also know that we are not ostracizing a certain segment of our population and thinking that they are the cause of all the bad things that are happening that weekend,” he said.
A public hearing is planned for next Wednesday and a vote on the issue could occur on June 16.
Detroit police officers detained more than 100 minors for violating the special citywide curfew during last year’s fireworks. The juveniles, who arrived by the busload at the city’s Southwest Precinct, were held overnight until their parents arrived to take them home.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan has previously urged the city not to enforce the curfew, saying it unconstitutionally criminalizes minors who are doing nothing wrong. The organization said the curfew ordinance is too broad and shouldn’t apply to the whole city if police are concerned about activity along the riverfront, where crowds gather to watch the fireworks.
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