Due to a new law passed in New Orleans, in the French Quarter children 16 and younger must obey an 8 p.m. weekend curfew, replacing the previous curfew of 11 p.m. However, many believe the new law is not aimed to protect kids from the Quarter’s late-night goings-on, however, but to “protect” tourists from local kids, in particular Black youths.
Councilwoman Kristen Gisleson Palmer, who promoted the law, claims her goal in changing the curfew is to protect kids from violence and underage drinking. “I think it’s very reasonable,” said Palmer.
While the French Quarter has a reputation for partying and adult-oriented entertainment, said a report by ForceChange, many believe this curfew has a racist undertone, and a disproportionate effect on African American kids and teens.
And the ripple effect of the curfew may not simply end there. Many Black youth rely on weekend jobs in the Quarter, and the common concern is that many African American working class teens will be singled out, finding themselves jobless as a result.
In the wake of still-fresh wounds of prejudice that New Orleans endured after Hurricane Katrina, this development could prove particularly troubling.
“There is a desire not to have these Black males in the French Quarter,” said Tracie L. Washington, an attorney for the Louisiana Justice Institute, a civil rights organization.
Palmer commented that her staff is working on a new city ordinance to enforce these new curfew hours citywide.
Meanwhile, said a report at Black Entertainment Television, Washington and other activists have called for a boycott of the French Quarter beginning on Dr. Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 16.
This is not the first time that legislation supposedly meant to ensure the safety of the public has had a negative and racist outcome, the report continues. New York’s stop and frisk policies were championed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg as an effective crime solution, but the American Civil Liberties Union found that 88 percent of the 360,000 people who were stopped and frisked in the first six months of 2011 were innocent, and furthermore, that 51 percent of those people were Black.
At a meeting of the New Orleans City Council on Jan. 5 (in which the new curfew was approved), critics said the curfew would result in racial profiling among young Black residents. One African American speaker remarked that he believed the council to be “sugar-coating” the issue, and suggested they simply come clean and “just tell us straight up – you don’t want us.”
Photo: New Orleans police on horseback patrol Bourbon Street in the city’s French Quarter. Rob Carr/AP