Oakland City Councilmember’s Noel Gallo’s appeal that “Every city in the U.S. has a curfew” drew boos and yelling from the packed council chambers as his controversial anti-crime strategy was roundly condemned by citizens and officials alike.
At issue: Gallo’s proposed a citywide curfew from 10 pm to 6 am seven days a week and from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm on school days. It would make it illegal for youth to be in public or in businesses during those hours. Although the proposed ordinance was aimed at curbing offenses like prostitution and human trafficking, many speakers Tuesday night passionately argued against, saying it would criminalize all youth.
Oakland resident Andre Mouton, who has worked at Castlemont High School in East Oakland said, “We don’t need Jim Crow laws in Oakland.”
Dozens of youth and advocates from the community lined up to speak during an hours-long public comment period Tuesday night that was punctuated with spoken word, rap, raucous applause and the dismissal of two people from the audience.
“Please don’t support the youth curfew. I think it’s a waste of time and money,” said high schooler Giovanni Gaines, with the Urban Peace Movement.
Opponents argued that the law would unjustly be enforced on youth of color and could lead to racial profiling or policing methods like stop and frisk. The speakers used the forum as a sounding board against the Oakland Police Department as much as the Oakland City Council.
“If you want meaningful things to happen, you need to lead with the meaningful things,” said Jess Haney, a speaker who works with Critical Resistance, addressing the committee. “I urge you to lead with the solution rather than the criminalization.”
Other city council members agreed. Councilmember Dan Kalb spoke to Gallo’s strong character but disagreed with a nighttime curfew.
Fellow Councilmember Libby Schaaf sided with the Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent. “Our own police chief has asked us not to enact this ordinance,” she said.
In the end, Councilmember Lynette McElhaney passed a motion to address chronic absenteeism and grade level literacy, rather than a youth curfew, and Gallo reluctantly agreed.
“I’m glad you came. I heard you loud and clear,” Gallo said to the crowd. But, while he apparently accepted the defeat of the curfew, he made it clear that he will continue to push for more radical solutions. “The city has been making excuses time and time again.”