DETROIT (CBS Detroit) – The Detroit City Council has rejected a plan to extend a curfew for youth in Detroit from one to four days.
After hearing public comment on the inflammatory issue, council members voted against the ordinance that would’ve required anyone age 17 and under to be accompanied by a parent or guardian beginning this Friday night, during Detroit’s River Days festival and popular annual fireworks show.
Among those speaking before council Tuesday afternoon was Ron Scott of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, who called the curfew extension a “first step toward criminalizing a generation.”
“It takes away parental discretion,” Scott said. “We make the assumption that if you ticket the parents that things are gonna change. Don’t tell black people how to raise their children. Don’t tell us how to do that, because I think that we’re wise enough to know how to do it.”
The extended curfew would have been in effect from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. for River Days, Friday through Sunday, June 19-21; and for the Freedom Festival fireworks over the Detroit river, Monday, June 22, from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m.
Instead, council members said they’d allow the curfew on Monday only, as it had been in place in years past.
While police Chief James Craig said the proposed curfew was not meant to stereotype or criminalize minors, but to keep them safe, Scott believes it would constitute a violation young Detroiters’ civil rights.
“This new ordinance creates a Soweto-like, police controlled and monitored zone which restricts the movement of youth in the designated area,” said Scott, in a statement out earlier Tuesday. “This draconian measure flies in the face of the City of Detroit’s anti-profiling ordinance. It is ironic that it is being proposed at a time when America and Canada are celebrating their democratic traditions.”
The term “Soweto-like” refers to a former district of segregated townships in South Africa that was the scene of violent anti-apartheid rioting in 1976, when a student protest led to clashes with police.
While police say problems caused by local youth necessitate the curfew in Detroit, Scott claims that, according to case law from around the country, police are obligated to prove there are legitimate and specific public safety concerns.
“Internet chatter and specious intelligence reports are not enough to justify prior restraint of an entire generation and/or ethnic group,” Scott said.
Resident Eli Kandrum said these ordinances are perpetuating fear and distress between the young people of Detroit and the police force.
“There’s no worse feeling than being treated like a criminal for doing nothing; no worse feeling than being discriminated against because of a factor that you cannot control — be that race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or age,” Kandrum said.
Detroiter Marco Wallace, 17, says penalizing all teens for the expected bad behavior of a few is a little harsh.
“I’m 17 turning 18 this year,” Wallace said. “Why can’t I go down to a fireworks festival? I might as well just buy some fireworks and have a little festival in my front yard.”
Among the heavy-hitter opposing the curfew extension was Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), who — in a tweet called it “unfair.”
Others argue that teens out at night during these events should probably be accompanied by an adult in the first place.
Last year, over 100 minors were detained by Detroit police for violating a curfew on the night of the fireworks event which draws thousands of revelers to the city each year.