RI ACLU: Curfews should be a last resort, not a knee-jerk reaction

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – Following the violence in Providence overnight Monday, some cities and towns in Rhode Island implemented curfews Tuesday night over fears that there would be a repeat in their communities.

Providence, East Providence, Warwick, Cranston, Pawtucket, Central Falls, Cumberland, Coventry and Woonsocket all implemented curfews Tuesday, many that lifted Wednesday morning.

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza extended the city’s curfew until June 9th, and Woonsocket Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt implemented a curfew Wednesday night that will remain in place until further notice.

But the ACLU of Rhode Island has taken issue with the curfew orders, saying they should be a last resort and not a kneejerk reaction.

“Obviously they have a significant impact on individual rights,” said Steven Brown, executive director of the ACLU of RI. “Unfortunately all too often that can actually have the direct opposite effect of what this is all about, potentially targeting people of color.”

Brown said curfews should be implemented only in the area of the threat, and not a blanket order for the entire community.

“A number of municipalities just adopted these blanket wide bans, citywide, townwide, even though the alleged threats to particular areas were known or supposedly known.”

He added that some are put into effect with little notice, making it hard for people to comply. East Providence announced their curfew minutes before 9 p.m. when it went into effect Tuesday.

The curfews also give law enforcement an incredible amount of power, Brown said. Most curfews included exceptions, like for the media or for people going to work.

“One of our biggest concerns about curfew orders or ordinances is that they end up giving law enforcement enormous discretion in deciding who they’re going to stop, whether they’re walking on the street or whether they’re in a car. A police officer has no idea when a car drives by whether they fit in one of those exemptions,” Brown said.

Coventry was one of the towns where a curfew was set Tuesday, over fears their shopping centers would get looted. Captain Dennis Skorski said, in response to the claims by the ACLU, that officers would never pull over a car without reason to.

“We would not randomly just pull over people for just driving around, especially based on the timelines the orders are given out, what people may or may not know that they have knowledge on what’s going on. Their conduct would drive what our contact would be with the public,” said Capt. Skorski.

The ACLU said they’ll be looking into the curfews that still remain in effect in hopes of shortening them.

© WLNE-TV 2020

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Pawtucket, Providence, Rhode Island, Warwick, Woonsocket