I live outside the city of Greenville, but visit the downtown area regularly. The city has done an excellent job of renovating the area and has a park that is outstanding (see here for details). It's nice for a romantic stroll with your significant other, a playdate with the kids, or just a place to meet and talk. We occasionally have street performers and even Shakespeare plays in the park (which is more culture than I can stand). Dinners downtown are a little pricey and you have to work at finding a parking place (or just break down and pay for it), but it's worth the price once in a while.
Recently, however, there have been some problems. Back in August, there were "between 500 and 800 young people at the park" and there were reports of them blocking streets and impacting business (source). As a result, the city implemented a temporary curfew affecting children under 18. The curfew starts at 10pm.
More recently, we had our Fall for Greenville festival - A "three-day event highlighting local restaurants and musical entertainment on five music stages" (see here) - it's just a weekend to walk the streets, enjoy some food and some music with the family. Unfortunately, after the event on Saturday this year there were fights, again mostly teenagers involved.
Now, the city council is considering making the curfew permanent and has scheduled a second reading of the new ordinance. Basically, kids under 18 without an adult would not be allowed on downtown business district streets after 10pm without an adult.
However, not everyone likes the idea of a curfew. I've been watching one outspoken individual, Dan Edge, who has been fighting it. Dan has started a blog and even staged a protest against the curfew early last month. During the protest, he passed out flyers encouraging others to join his "sit-in". At least three teens did join and stayed past curfew. When they were asked to leave, two left and a third stopped to talk to Mr. Edge. The third teen was arrested, prompting one of the other two to return and he was arrested. Mr. Edge was then arrested for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Two counts, one for each of the teens that were arrested. (The long sordid details of this battle are on Mr. Edge's blog, I invite you to read it all there).
Dan Edge has some serious squabble about the new law, starting with the fact that there is no freedom of speech allowance. Yesterday was his first court appearance and I managed to go watch. Mr. Edge acted as his own attorney and he was advised several times of his rights to an attorney. As this was just a probable cause hearing, he felt it wasn't necessary. At the end of the hearing, the judge felt there was indeed probably cause to proceed and the matter is now being sent to the city attorney. The city attorney can hand this to a grand jury, who would decide whether or not to indict and then the case would go to trial.
During the hearing, the judge warned Mr. Edge that the hearing was NOT about the constitutionality of the ordinance nor even about the ordinance itself, but was strictly about his actions and was there evidence to pursue a trial on the grounds of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He advised that he did not want to turn this into a political forum. The judge decided that since two teens were arrested (he had heard one of those cases himself) and since Edge had been conversing with the teens and passing out flyers for the protest, the case should proceed.
In addition to the above, Mr. Edge feels like his civil rights were violated when he was arrested. He has announced that he is suing the city of Greenville. He's been interviewed by the local television station and as mentioned, he's started a blog to document the issue.
I've tried to stay objective in what I've written above, I'll come back in part 2 and offer my opinion. As always, I'm interested in your opinion and ask that you be respectful in anything you say here.