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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.  

Glinda Smith July 19, 2011 at 12:26 PM
This has nothing to do with race and everything to do with bad behavior. Black kids have been coming to Coventry from all over the area for decades and everything was fine until they decided to show up in the 1000's and start fights. It's the flash mob behavior that is the problem - focus on the problem!!!
Justice Jane July 19, 2011 at 05:20 PM
We had 25 people at the protest not 12, and if people cannot see that giving police the authority to pick and choose with the Black community's history with police then they are ignorant. Who do you think police will choose if they can select between a teen doing nothing to arrest and just be being there if one is a White blued-eyed blond girl and another is a young Black male?
Gary July 19, 2011 at 05:29 PM
“Things that make you go Hmmmmm…” CURFEW LAW (City of Cleveland Heights) No one 16 years of age or older, but under 18 years of age, can be out between 12:00 midnight and 6:00 am. Exceptions to these rules are when: children and teens are accompanied by parents, guardians, or members of the family who are 18 years or older; they are on errands or other legitimate business under the parents' direction; or they are engaged in gainful and lawful employment during curfew hours Apartheid Legislation in South Africa Group Areas Act, Act No 41 of 1950 Forced physical separation between races by creating different residential areas for different races. Led to forced removals of people living in "wrong" areas, for example Colored’s living in District Six in Cape Town. Prevention of Illegal Squatting Act, Act No 52 of 1951 Gave the Minister of Native Affairs the power to remove blacks from public or privately owned land. Reservation of Separate Amenities Act, Act No 49 of 1953 Forced segregation in all public amenities, public buildings, and public transport with the aim of eliminating contact between whites and other races. ISRAELI APARTHEID LAWS Identity Card (Possession and Presentation) Law (1982) Residents must carry identity cards at all times and present them to "senior police officers, to the heads of local authorities, or to police officers or soldiers on duty when requested to do so."
Michelle Simakis (Editor) July 19, 2011 at 05:41 PM
@Justice Jane — thanks for reading and commenting on the site. I changed the number in the story to "a group of." I know more people were actually in the meeting, but I thought it was about a dozen outside. I apologize if that was incorrect.
CLEVELAND HEIGHTS RESIDENT #2 July 19, 2011 at 05:51 PM
I am black, a single patent of a black son. I love coventry and have visited less this year then any other year due to the large groups of teenagers. I have witnessed these teenagers rude behavior, terrible language and disrespectful attitude on several occasions. My son has often mentioned Conentry as the place where kids go to drink, smoke weed and hang out on the streets with their friends. The curfew is needed! Check the police blogs and count how many unnecessary crimes are taking place in Cleveland heights from teens. I support my city for taking a Stand. Color has nothing to do with it.
Justice Jane July 19, 2011 at 07:23 PM
Thanks Michelle. Good article-----They can deal with the problem children but it is unconstitutional to target innocent ones and we shall allow a federal district court to decide if it is unconstitutional. We must have constitutional activists that will say no to a runaway Cleveland Hts City Council as to its arbitrary and capricious abuse of power to the detriment of our children as to the city ordinance at issue. And Cleveland Hts City Councilwoman Phyllis Evans, who is Black, should be ashamed of herself. Meeting today from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm with State Senator Shirley Smith at Aribica Coffee House University Circle, 11300 Juniper Road in Cleveland near Case Western Reserve University . We thank this newspaper for the fair coverage and urge Michelle to cover the meeting. Penalizing innocent children is unconstitutional and we shall deal with that in federal district court. And Cleveland Hts Councilwoman Phyllis Evans, who is Black, should be ashamed of herself.
Glinda Smith July 19, 2011 at 07:32 PM
Justice Jane: Have you documented instances, since the curfew has been enacted, in which black youth have been singled out?
Michelle Simakis (Editor) July 19, 2011 at 08:00 PM
A reminder of our terms. If your comment "is threatening, harassing or that promotes racism, bigotry, hatred or physical harm of any kind against any group or individual" it will be deleted. Here's a link to our terms of use: www.clevelandheights.patch.com/terms.
Justice Jane July 20, 2011 at 03:56 AM
So race is the reason for the unconstitutional city ordinance?
Justice Jane July 20, 2011 at 04:00 AM
Then they should deal with the specific teens that you say were disruptive. Should all adults be barred from a restaurant because a few misbehaved? And what about St. Patrick's day in Cleveland when a large number of Whites get drunk, act up and get arrested? Should there be a 6 pm curfew for adult in Cleveland relative to the St Patrick's Day fiasco?
Jeri Ann Waltrip July 20, 2011 at 04:35 AM
I would like to ask Justice Jane if she lives in Cleveland Heights. I have lived in Cleveland Heights since 1969. I am black. When teens behavior so threatens both residents & customers of the area so that people are afraid to visit the area, something must be done. That perception is all it takes to destroy the shopping area & to convince people to move out of the area. Minors are under the responsibility of their parents, or at least they are supposed to be. I support the City Council.
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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