😴 The curfews enacted in many cities last week might not be legal

As protests broke out across the United States, cities as varied as Los Angeles and Cincinnati set curfews to get people off the streets in the evening. Lawyers are questioning whether cities should be allowed to make these decisions, according to the Wall Street Journal.

  • Curfews have a definitive goal: Cities believe that by enacting a curfew they can either prevent violent protests or separate law-abiding protesters from those more likely to commit crimes. A former police chief told the WSJ “The curfew is not designed to prosecute people, the curfew is designed to make it easier for law enforcement to identify people who do need prosecution.”

  • But opponents contend curfews are used to sweep people off the streets: Peaceful protesters say they want to stay out to continue to be in the public eye. And those who stay out can be arrested, further inflaming tensions between police and community. In Chicago, a 9 p.m. curfew was announced at 8:30 p.m., giving little time for protesters to follow the order.

The curfew pushback

Several cities have been sued over their curfews, with civil liberties groups saying the curfews violate the right to peaceably assemble. And district attorneys throughout the United States have declined to prosecute curfew arrests. 

The Verdict

Curfews regarding protesting are not common internationally (Hong Kong officials did not enact them during its major protests last year). But because of the decline in violence over the last week, the practice may continue in the U.S.