Below is the ACLU of Rhode Island's statement in response to the adoption today of curfew orders by the cities of Cranston, Providence and Warwick:
The imposition of blanket curfews within three cities in our state is an extraordinary and overly broad action that, ironically, can only promote the types of discriminatory police actions that have prompted peaceful protests this past week.
Each of these curfew orders contain a hodgepodge of exemptions. For example, Cranston allows an exception for people going to and from work, while Providence’s exemption is for “essential” workers only. Warwick’s order creates an exemption for voters, while Cranston – the home of the Board of Elections – does not. In Cranston and Warwick, homeless individuals will automatically be violators of the orders.
In order to enforce these orders, police will be exercising enormous discretion in deciding which cars to pull over, and which individuals to stop, for possibly being out in violation of the curfew. History, decades of data, and present-day headlines teach us that such discretion will likely be enforced in a discriminatory manner.
Officials today described how police intelligence prepared them to be present at last night’s acts of vandalism in Providence. There thus would appear to be much less restrictive approaches than blanket city-wide bans like these. If, however, law enforcement really has little idea what the plans of those with malicious intent are, then it is hard to see how blunderbuss approaches like these will work, other than to seriously harm the rights of law-abiding residents who have just finished spending two months sheltering in place.
The ACLU of Rhode Island joins in Common Cause Rhode Island’s particular concern about the impact that Cranston’s curfew will have on late-evening voters in the city and on those traveling to the Board of Elections in Cranston to either deliver ballots or monitor the elections process. The image of a vehicle delivering election ballots being stopped and detained late at night by any police department is not a comforting one to contemplate.
The ACLU urges reconsideration of these curfews. At the very least, they should be revised to contain a later starting time tonight and also not be allowed to extend beyond this one night.