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Why cities are instituting curfews during George Floyd protests

Why cities are instituting curfews during George Floyd protests
Posted at 2:13 PM, Jun 03, 2020

Hundreds of cities have put curfews in place because of the protests. That makes it so law enforcement can stop or arrest anyone on the street, but many protesters have ignored the restrictions.

So, why do it? We spoke to an expert in policing who says it’s about separating those hiding in the crowd to incite violence and protecting demonstrators trying to have their voices heard.

“It doesn't necessarily give power. It gives them the ability to contain better whatever it is that they need to contain,” said Dr. Maria Haberfeld, a professor of law, police science and criminal justice at John Jay College. “Whether it's rioting, whether it's looting, whether it's unlawful gathering of people.”

Haberfeld says curfews have a history of controversy. They were used during the Jim Crow era against African Americans and against Japanese populations during World War II.

Now, they're normally used for juveniles or during natural disasters like hurricanes. Haberfeld calls that the good use of curfews to protect the general population.

Still, the ACLU has criticized curfews as unfair and unconstitutional, saying it gives police too much discretion over who to arrest. Haberfeld doesn't see it that way.

“When a city's under siege, when a city's in danger of being burned and destroyed, that has nothing to do with unconstitutional,” said Haberfeld. “That has everything to do actually with serving and protecting people who live in the city.”

Haberfeld says it's important to note that curfews are instituted by mayors or local governments, not by police chiefs or commissioners. She says police departments cannot and do not want to arrest everyone.