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Curfew Debate Continues at City Council Meeting

About 50 or 60 people packed Cleveland Heights Council Chambers to weigh in on the controversial law

The new curfew ordinance in Cleveland Heights continues to be a hot topic.

More than 50 people packed into Council Chambers at Monday’s regular council meeting, some to share their thoughts on the  at 6 p.m. for people under 18 in the Coventry and Cedar Lee business districts, .

And a group of people protested outside of shortly before the meeting, some who were concerned the law would target black youth.

“I’m worried there will be an unfair application of this law, and it will go against black kids,” said Cleveland Heights resident Valerie Robinson. “I think it’s repressive and counter-productive, and I want to know, what that took place at a public gathering of 25,000 estimated got to do with everyday life on Coventry and Lee Road? The kids should not be punished for this.”

Kathy Wray Coleman said council should end the ordinance, calling it “unconstitutional” and “irresponsible.”

“It also gives the police the discretion to pick and choose, meaning it’s a license for potential discrimination.” 

Others defended the new law, including members from the Youth of Coventry, a group of 11- to 25-year-olds who formed after seeing what happened at the Coventry Street Arts Fair. Members who spoke support the curfew ordinance, and said there is no evidence that the age-based law is racist. They also addressed misconceptions they've heard about the ordinance. 

“I give it a great deal of applause. My boys, the Youth of Coventry, want their streets back,” said Sara Climaco, Cleveland Heights resident and mother of one of the Youth of Coventry members. “I don’t see anything wrong. It’s not an isolated incident, our police have done an amazing job … (The Youth of Coventry) are our future Cleveland Heights homeowners, and I think they’re doing an amazing job.” 

State Senator Shirley Smith attended the meeting, but said she does not oppose or support the new law.

“I think that the city is taking what they feel are the necessary precautions that could alleviate the problems that have happened,” Smith said. “They’re doing what they have to do as leaders of a city.”

She stayed after the meeting to listen in on a Youth of Coventry meeting.

“They are our tomorrow. We don’t have enough youth involved in political issues and community issues — (The Youth of Coventry) make me proud,” she said. “What’s even better is that they are a diverse group.” 

Councilman Ken Montlack reminded those who spoke at the meeting about the exceptions to the law, including one that allows minors to travel to and from work through the districts during the restricted hours.

“There have been a number of these flash crowds that have occurred in the region … It’s a virus that is running through our system now, and the ordinance is simply one tool in the toolbox to keep our city safe and secure,” Montlack said.

Mayor Ed Kelley said the issue is “,” and he plans to continue to work with other cities. He reminded residents that information about the new curfew, including copies of the ordinance and amendments, is posted on the city's website. Residents and others will receive copies in the mail by midweek.

“We’ll not just sit back and do nothing when it comes to other people feeling that they can destroy what’s taken us so many years to put together,” said Vice Mayor Phyllis Evans.  

Justice Jane July 20, 2011 at 08:22 AM
I live in University Heights were the business district at Cedar-Lee in University Hts is impacted. If teens misbehave then deal with those teens. It is an overreach of government to tell all children under 18 that they will be arrested for eating a sandwich after 6 pm in certain areas of the city in the absence of a parent ot guardian. The Cleveland Hts city ordinance at issue is irresponsible and unconstitutional. In Moore vs. The East Cleveland Bd of Education, 1974, the U.S. Supreme Court noted in the body of that decision that children do not shed their constitutional rights at certain gates, like the municipal gate, though it did rule against the kids saying the arm bands they wore were not protected speech. Nonetheless, it set a standard and we will do what we need to do to protect the constitutional and statutory rights of children, regardless of race, ethnicity or gender. It is as simple as that.
Julie A Smith July 20, 2011 at 08:28 PM
I'm black too, and although I don't live in the Heights, if a curfew has to be enforced to keep troublemakers from making trouble, then that's what has to be done. It's sad, but, that's life. I saw the Twitter feeds when kids were talking about going to Coventry to start stuff, so this was planned by a few and ruined for the many.
Julie A Smith July 20, 2011 at 08:29 PM
@Justice Jane: I think if a kid is doing nothing, then the police will move on, regardless of the color of their skin.
Donald R. Thompson July 20, 2011 at 09:45 PM
Flash Mobs create disturbances, any large gathering in a business district with the intent purpose to disrupt, inconvenience, annoy, or alarm others. No matter the age these flash mobs should be required to obtain a permit much like you must do if you are going to have a parade or block party. Any gathering over 25 persons for the purpose of flash mobbing should be prohibited, this is not political gatherings we are talking about or a commercial event.
Donald R. Thompson July 20, 2011 at 09:54 PM
http://www.npr.org/2011/05/26/136578945/flash-mobs-arent-just-for-fun-anymore

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