Rhode Island curfew law put on hold

WW photo: Bill Bateman

Joined by constituents and community organizations, the 11th Ward city councilman, Davian Sanchez, announced on Oct. 4 that he has placed his proposal for a youth curfew in Providence, R.I., on hold. Instead, Sanchez said he will introduce ordinances to improve youth employment and recreation, and ban practices that can lead to racial profiling.

“The goal of the curfew ordinance was to reduce violence in the city and make the city safer for our youth,” Sanchez stated. “However, after meeting with youth, parents and community groups, I have decided that the best way to achieve this goal is to work toward bettering relations between police and youth, and creating more positive spaces and activities for youth in the evenings.”

“When you see how a curfew works, and how much it costs, it doesn’t make sense,” said Joseph Buchanan of Rhode Island Black PAC, one of the groups that has been meeting with Sanchez. “We’d rather spend the money on programs for youth, instead of police overtime, lost wages, courts and lawyers.”

Bill Bateman of the Rhode Island Unemployed Council said, “Don’t tell us there’s no money! Over the last 10 years, Providence was robbed of $680 million by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and $500 million by the Bush tax cut. Be honest and say, ‘There’s no money for you.’”

Sheila Wilhem, a parent and Direct Action for Rights and Equality member said, “My kids have suffered from constant racial profiling and police harassment. A curfew would only make things worse for them and all of our youth. They need jobs and recreation, not [hand]cuffs and curfews.”

Franny Choi of the Providence Youth Student Movement told Sanchez that youth diversions would be more effective and less expensive. “With real community support,” she said, “youth can pull themselves out of the cycle of violence — even lead the charge to end it. Labeling them as criminals only fuels the problem.”

Rochelle Lee of the RI Rosa Parks Human Rights Committee added that “racial profiling and criminalization of youth are a part of a new ‘Jim Crow’ we are fighting to abolish.”

Those in attendance at the press conference included members of the Olneyville Neighborhood Association, Direct Action for Rights and Equality, the Rhode Island Latino Political Action Committee, the Mount Hope Neighborhood Association, the SOS Save Our Schools Coalition, the Rhode Island Peoples Assembly and the Rhode Island American Civil Liberties Union.