By Ken A. Epstein
A proposal for a youth curfew in Oakland died this week at the city’s Public Safety Committee meeting in the face of opposition by City Council members and the outraged hostility of young people and their supporters who filled the council chambers.
Brought to the Tuesday evening committee meeting by District 5 Councilmember Noel Gallo, the “Juvenile Protection Curfew
Ordinance” was designed to help remedy the “victimization, exploitation and criminal activities that adversely impact youth in the City of Oakland.”
Gallo’s suggestion was to create a seven-day-a week, 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and also would ban young people from being in public during school hours, 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. He emphasized he did not wish to to have young people arrested but instead called for 24-hour-a-day youth action centers where those detained would be taken for family and academic counseling and resources.
While Public Safety Committee members declined to send the proposal to the full council for a vote, the committee voted to hold hearings on how the city can help reduce truancy and support students.
Speaker after speaker argued that a curfew would violate young people’s rights, underscoring their tense relations with Oakland police officers, who speakers said regularly harass, racially profile and arrest teenagers.
“There are lots of problems (in the schools), but a curfew is the bigger problem. I don’t want someone to take our constitutional rights away from us,” said Andre Mouton, who has worked with young people in East Oakland schools,
“(Young people) will run, and these police shoot. They will treat them like meat. We don’t want one kid killed by a curfew law,” he said.
Some young people talked about their reasons for being out at night, including taking a bus home from work, or soccer games, as well as buying dinner for younge siblings. An undocumented young man said the curfew could mean he would be picked up and deported.
A group of four teenagers performed a poem with the refrain, ““I’m here today to say that curfews do not reduce crime. They criminalize us in our day to day,” recited Pablo Paredes, Diana Bonilla, Michele Ramos and Daniel Ramos.
I’ve been kicked out of my house numerous times,” with the result that she is out of the house after 10 p.m., said Patricia Carter. “Should I go to jail because I don’t have good parents?”
Councilmember Libby Schaaf and Lynette McElhaney opposed the curfew, as did Councilmember Dan Kalb, who said he wanted police to devote their attention to high priority 911 calls.
“If they’re stopping a bunch of 16-year-olds hanging out a little later than normal … I don’t think that’s a good use of their time,” he said.
Police Chief Sean Whent opposed the curfew on grounds that it would be difficult to enforce and strain his already limited resources. “I think it would really impair our effectiveness and really impact our ability to do other stuff like violent crime prevention,” he said.
Courtesy of the Oakland Post, November 14, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)