Curfew a week in New York, curfews, ad hoc, Washington, Chicago or Los Angeles: protests, sometimes violent, with looting, that is shaking the United States have pushed the authorities to use this tool challenged the maintenance order, at the risk of inflaming the anger of the protesters.
“The city that never sleeps” had not known such a measure since the Second world War: in August 1943, the neighborhood, historically black Harlem, was placed three days under a curfew very strict, as a result of the riots caused (already) by police violence on a soldier black, Robert Bandy.
He had been shot and wounded by a white policeman, after being intervened in the arrest of a black woman, according to the newspapers of the time. The false rumor went around that the soldier was dead (it will eventually of his injuries) precipitating violence and looting that were going to do at least 5 dead and 500 injured.
These last days, in the face of the historical manifestations triggered by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, this extreme measure has become commonplace: after Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Atlanta have imposed from Saturday, the curfew, followed on Sunday by Washington and Monday in New York city.
“Exercise for balance “
Like others, the mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, who has imposed a curfew particularly long (up to including Sunday) has insured does not want to prevent the protests, which is protected by the First amendment of the u.s. Constitution on freedom of expression. And to want to only stop the violence and looting that occurred usually at night.
He even encouraged people to protest, day: this fifty year old white, who has seen his daughter metis of 25 years briefly arrested during a demonstration Saturday, said he originally rejected the idea of a curfew, before you join that after two nights of looting croissants.
The curfew is ” a balancing act “, said AFP Dennis Kenney, professor of criminal justice at the City University of New York.
“The idea is not to interfere with the right of people to protest “, but that “the police can intercept” the troublemakers before they pillage it, or that they ” do things that we oppose all “, he said.
The expert recognizes, however, that curfews are ” not very effective “.
In New York and elsewhere, demonstrators have been many to challenge them. And often, the police have not arrested the offenders, peaceful, with an evident concern of appeasement.
“The police do not expect it to be respected “, according to Mr. Kenney, but it is ” an effective tool to prevent that a demonstration turns to riot, or to prevent groups or individuals looting “.
Provided, however, not to last long, otherwise people see it as “a violation of their rights” and “the curfew becomes in itself something which must be resisted,” he said.
In the current crisis, anger and feeling of injustice are, however, such as the protesters have often rejected from the outset, chanting in chorus, ” Damn curfew! “(” Fuck the curfew boot “).
For Jasmon Bailey, a sociologist at the University of Maryland who studies the psychology of racism, ” the arguments in favour of a curfew are not convincing “.
According to him, the measure “does not solve any problems” denounced by the protesters. It exacerbates the contrary, police violence, and racial inequalities at the heart of demonstrations, giving the police extensive powers of arrest and arbitrary.
The police ” can selectively apply “, and stop ” more (offenders) black as white “, said the expert.
He cites the example of the protests against confinement, which have flourished in the United States at the peak of the pandemic coronavirus, in flagrant violation of the instructions of distancing physical authorities: the protesters were “mostly white” and the authorities have not considered “to limit their right” to protest.
For him as for many protesters, curfews focus the attention on the looting, to the detriment of the fundamental problem of systemic racism which they require eradication.
Curfews are fair or not, experts and officials agree on one point: the more they are long, they are counter-productive – and may be challenged in court by organizations for the defence of rights as the powerful ACLU.
“It is the right thing to do for just a few days,” said the mayor of New York. Past next Monday, ” I hope I never have to use it, if we do things well “.