On Wednesday night, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced that the 9 p.m. curfew order, originally scheduled to run through Saturday, May 6, would be rescinded completely. The decision came after Durkan and Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best met with local community leaders, who urged them to reconsider nightly curfews, among several other demands, including defunding the police and withdrawing a request to remove the police department from federal oversight.
The curfew matter was one point of contention during the citywide protests that began last Friday in response to the death of George Floyd, who was killed while in Minneapolis police custody. These demonstrations also encompass the larger history of injustices and police violence against people of color, as protesters invoke the names of victims such as Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice. That tragic list now includes Manuel Ellis, a black man who died in handcuffs this March while being restrained by the Tacoma police.
Many have condemned the citywide curfews, with tensions running high between police and protesters since Friday night. Though Best claimed the curfew was a necessary tool for police to tamp down on unlawful activity, protest organizers, lawmakers, and other local leaders saw it as undermining the demonstrations themselves, as Washington’s lieutenant governor Cyrus Habib explained.
The purpose of curfews is not to limit looting. Looting is illegal with or without a curfew in place. The purpose of curfews is to limit peaceful protest. The preemptive use of curfews has escalated this situation, endangered the public, and is almost certainly unconstitutional.— Cyrus Habib (@cyrushabib) June 3, 2020
The lifting of the curfew order should also be good news for restaurants near protest sites, many of which had already been hurting business-wise during the COVID-19 pandemic. Places like Nue and Mamnoon on Capitol Hill have been frustrated by the shifting curfew start times each night, confusing rules, and lack of communication by city officials in implementing the mandates. “It’s had a big impact on the already depressed level of business,” says Mamnoon owner Wassef Haroun.
Also, as some critics contend, curfews tend to disproportionately impact people of color, who — along with undocumented immigrants — make up a large portion of the restaurant industry workforce. With several restaurants in Seattle reopening for takeout and delivery, many might have been commuting home around 9 p.m., after already potentially putting their health at risk on the frontlines of a worldwide pandemic.
Up until now, there seemed to be no discernible pattern to the nightly alerts that everyone in Seattle received on their cell phones since this weekend, distributing information about when the curfew went into effect. Some would go out right after the curfew time; some before.
Now, as long as there are no more surprise changes, those alerts will no longer go out at all.