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ACLU: Curfews likely to lead to discriminatory enforcement by police

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In order to enforce these orders, police will be exercising enormous discretion in deciding which cars to pull over, and which individuals to stop, for possibly being out in violation of the curfew. History, decades of data, and present-day headlines teach us that such discretion will likely be enforced in a discriminatory manner.


Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza today signed a new Executive Order (20-8) implementing a citywide curfew effective tonight, June 2 at 9:00 PM.

“Given the incidents last night where the City of Providence experienced substantial violence including the vandalism, breaking and entering and looting of numerous storefronts, City Officials have decided to implement a citywide curfew from 9:00PM-6:00AM until June 9th, 2020 during which time no person shall be allowed in the public streets, ways, or places of the city.

“This curfew will not apply to first responders, emergency medical technicians; individuals traveling directly to and from essential work or performing essential work; people experiencing homelessness and without access to a viable shelter; individuals seeking medical treatment or medical supplies or fleeing dangerous circumstances; police officers; peace officers; firefighters and members of the news media.”

Similar curfews, with some confusing differences and exceptions, were introduced in Warwick and Cranston.

In a statement, the ACLU of RI writes that they believe these curfews are extraordinary, unnecessary, and, ironically, likely to lead to discriminatory enforcement by police.


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“The imposition of blanket curfews within three cities in our state is an extraordinary and overly broad action that, ironically, can only promote the types of discriminatory police actions that have prompted peaceful protests this past week.

“Each of these curfew orders contain a hodgepodge of exemptions. For example, Cranston allows an exception for people going to and from work, while Providence’s exemption is for “essential” workers only. Warwick’s order creates an exemption for voters, while Cranston – the home of the Board of Elections – does not. In Cranston and Warwick, homeless individuals will automatically be violators of the orders.

“In order to enforce these orders, police will be exercising enormous discretion in deciding which cars to pull over, and which individuals to stop, for possibly being out in violation of the curfew. History, decades of data, and present-day headlines teach us that such discretion will likely be enforced in a discriminatory manner.

“Officials today described how police intelligence prepared them to be present at last night’s acts of vandalism in Providence. There thus would appear to be much less restrictive approaches than blanket city-wide bans like these. If, however, law enforcement really has little idea what the plans of those with malicious intent are, then it is hard to see how blunderbuss approaches like these will work, other than to seriously harm the rights of law-abiding residents who have just finished spending two months sheltering in place.

“The ACLU of Rhode Island joins in Common Cause Rhode Island’s particular concern about the impact that Cranston’s curfew will have on late-evening voters in the city and on those traveling to the Board of Elections in Cranston to either deliver ballots or monitor the elections process. The image of a vehicle delivering election ballots being stopped and detained late at night by any police department is not a comforting one to contemplate.

“The ACLU urges reconsideration of these curfews. At the very least, they should be revised to contain a later starting time tonight and also not be allowed to extend beyond this one night.”

Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade. atomicsteve@gmail.com