By Shea Howell
The Detroit City Council voted down the Curfew of River Days after public pressure. Chief Craig presented the proposal to lock down all young people under age 18 for four days from 6 pm to 6 am. He argued at the packed public hearing that this would make the Freedom Festival safe and increase parental responsibility.
The majority of the Council, as well as the majority of those in the auditorium saw through these claims. Council President Brenda Jones raised sharp questions challenging the Chiefs statistics and his logic. Members Castaneda-Lopez and Sheffield were equally concerned about the motivations for such a drastic measure. The racism inherent in the proposal was clear, criminalizing an entire community. President Jones patiently explained to the Chief that he was setting up a situation with such drastic restrictions on the normal activities of young people, that he risked provoking a confrontation.
Chief Craig showed no compelling need to impose this curfew. He said in the last 3 years, between 5 and 31 “incidents” occurred. He made an almost laughable defense of the curfew “tool,” saying it had proven to work well in stopping fires for Devil’s night turned Angels night.
Detroiters took the Chief to task for such sloppy reasoning, pointing out that the Devils night curfew is surrounded by a massive community mobilization to not only provide citizen patrols on the streets, but to engage young people in a host of activities to celebrate the holiday safely. To the Chief’s claim that he was going organize 100 volunteers, people noted that Angel’s Night typically has nearly 30,000 people engaged in the effort.
We should all support and congratulate those on Council who stood up for our children. Many of them spoke at the hearing, saying, “It is not a crime to be young.”
One of the saddest moments in the hearing came from Councilman Andre Spivey. Faced with the prospect of thousands of out of town youths here as part of the Baptist Convention, Spivey asked the Chief about the risks they faced. Talking movingly about the tragic consequences on the psyche of a youth whisked to the 4th precinct, facing charges and possibly an overnight stay in jail, Spivey asked the Chief if some other arrangements couldn’t be made for those guests nabbed for curfew violations. He suggested that perhaps the Marriot would be a more appropriate place to hold these visitors.
How is it possible that Councilman Spivey is more sensitive to a young Baptist from Dallas than he is to one from Dexter Avenue?
In all of this controversy, Mayor Duggan was silent. He seems unable to understand the dynamics of the city he is supposed to lead and unwilling to listen to the advice of long standing advocates for justice such as the ACLU and the NAACP. Both offered strong, clear counsel on why this was a bad idea.
As Detroit moves into summer facing massive water shut offs and no viable plan to deal with them, Council may want to look to its counterpart in Philadelphia.
While Detroit Council was voting down the curfew, Philadelphia was voting up a water affordability plan, designed to improve bill collections and protect lower income users. It is an income based water revenue assistance plan.
“Access to safe drinking water is a necessity. This legislation removes longstanding obstacles that have prevented low-income and vulnerable Philadelphia families from access to this right by burdening them with expensive water bills. At the same time, this bill will allow the Water Revenue Bureau to focus on increasing collections by removing inefficiencies,” said Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez. She emphasized that they have achieved “ a common-sense solution to ensure that no one in Philadelphia is priced out of water service because of their income.”
This plan of course was designed in part by the same people who assisted Detroit. We need to encourage council to listen to common sense, not unsupported fears.