The bill’s sponsor, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, admitted there is no data to show curfews are effective in stemming youth violence. Still, the 99 percent will be penalized for the random acts of a few knuckleheads.
Last Thursday, Philadelphia’s City Council was expected to pass an enhanced curfew law. However, no vote was taken due to a “procedural glitch.” The bill’s sponsor, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, said she has the votes.
If Council passes the bill, it will not be the end of the story; rather, it will open up a new chapter in the fight against the criminalization of black youth.
I live in Philadelphia in Center City, ground zero for a series of attacks dubbed “flash mobs” by the media. Since 2009, small groups of black teens and young adults have committed 11 such attacks at random times and on random days of the week.
In a fiery speech before Mount Carmel Baptist Church, Mayor Michael Nutter acknowledged that “less than one percent” of black youth were engaged in the attacks:
I want to apologize to all the good, hardworking, caring people here in this city, and especially our good, young people here in Philadelphia. But I have to tell you this morning that I am forced by the stupid, ignorant, dumb actions of a few -- and we will announce tomorrow actions that we will take that unfortunately will affect many here in our city.
Indeed, the 99 percent are presumed guilty. Nutter dusted off a decades-old law and imposed a “temporary curfew” that sweeps minors from Center City and University City after 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
The curfew was scheduled to end after Labor Day but under the Mayor’s emergency powers, it has been extended indefinitely. The demonization of black youth stands in stark contrast to how the police handle random acts of violence and property damage committed by white youth in Center City when, for instance, the Phillies won the World Series.
The South Street Mini-Station has enforced the citywide curfew to great success. If you have noticed an improvement in the District due to this curfew please email your positive feedback and request for continuance of the curfew to Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison.
Last August, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter declared an emergency and imposed a “temporary curfew” that sweeps minors from Center City and University City after 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
The curfew was scheduled to end after Labor Day but it has been extended indefinitely. Later today, City Council is expected to expand did not vote on Bill No. 110633. The legislation would amend the decades-old law and make it a crime for a minor to be in any “public place” after curfew hours.
Although facially race-neutral, the curfew disproportionately impacts black youth. The People’s Law School at Occupy Philly wrote that this law:
Makes it illegal for law-abiding adults to escort non-custodial minors and family members (i.e. nieces, nephews, sisters, brothers) in Philadelphia – this includes all “publicly accessible” areas like the movie theater, theater, stores, restaurants, etc.
Targets black youth and aims to prohibit their movement within richer neighborhoods.
Nijmie Zakkiyyah Dzurinko, executive director of the Philadelphia Student Union, told the Philadelphia Tribune:
Unfortunately, many of the students impacted by the curfew enforcement areas are working part-time jobs downtown, where they are unable to navigate home in sufficient time. The students enjoy being downtown as much as tourists. Not all large or small groups of students lead to violence.
Individuals who break the law should be dealt with on an individual basis. Collective punishment targeting a small geographic area is not going to solve the root issue.
Occupiers stepped up to the mic and spoke truth to power. Khadijah Costley White described the bill as a “backdoor approach to enforcing a widespread segregation and caging of Philadelphia’s youth, and believe it echoes the Black codes and slave codes of America’s history.”
The second weekend of Philadelphia’s enhanced youth curfew in Center City and University City begins tonight at 9:00 p.m.
For me, this issue is not just something to blog about. I, after all, live in Center City. More important, I want to help change the conversation from the media-hyped “flash mobs” to flash drives as black youth are exposed to new possibilities and opportunities.
Johnson-Speight said the parent forum was convened to address youth violence, and share information about organizations that provide resources and support for families and youth. They also talked about solutions:
We want to save our children. We don’t want our organization to grow because a mother has lost her child.
Everett Gillison, deputy mayor for public safety, addressed concerns about the criminalization of young people for being, well, young and dumb. Gillison said in the targeted enforcement areas, police officers will ask three questions:
Where are you going?
Where are you coming from?
Do you understand what time it is?
First-time curfew violators will be issued a warning. Gillison said the 72 youth who were rounded up last weekend were “out of the area, had no idea what they were doing or they were belligerent.”
There were passionate comments about what’s going on with black youth:
They’re acting out because they’re crying out. There are too many young people who are angry and out of control.
There was widespread agreement that parental involvement is key to stemming the tide of violence. Parents must be held accountable and know where their children are. At the same time, there were impassioned pleas from parents who want to do the right thing but don’t know where to turn for help.
DJ MoShay LaRen of 107.9 WRNB said parents must take ownership and responsibility for their children:
We birthed them. We are responsible for them… If you don’t know where to go for help, pick up the phone. Call 311, 411, 911. Keep calling. It’s not an option to give up on your kids.