Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Of curfews and protests - Part 2

My previous post on this topic tried to state the facts without injecting my own opinion. This post is just the opposite, all opinion. I should point out that last night was the final reading of the bill in city council. The bill passed 4-3. The curfew is now permanent, restricting unaccompanied teens from 10pm to 6am on Friday and Saturday nights.

I do not live in the city of Greenville. I don't directly pay taxes in the city, however, when I eat in downtown, a part of my meal costs (and the taxes on the meal) and my parking fees pay for city protection including police. On two of the nights recently, that protection failed and skirmishes resulted. As a patron of the restaurants, I can choose to eat on Main Street or out in the suburbs. Had city council not enacted this law, I would simply go somewhere else to eat. There are some nice restaurants outside downtown. I also recommend downtown to people visiting our city, if teens had been allowed to roam in packs, I would have stopped this recommendation. I don't do this out of protest, I simply take my money elsewhere and won't suggest a friend go to a dangerous place.

As a parent, I'm not directly affected by the curfew. My youngest is 19, so he can still "go with the flow" on Main Street without fear of arrest. When my kids were under 19, I would not have allowed them to go just to hang out. In fact, they rarely went anywhere just to hang out (except to a friend's house). I asked one of my children and they said that they did, on one occasion, go to one of the coffee houses before she was 18 and stayed after 10pm. This is allowed under the new law as she was visiting a particular downtown business.

In my opinion, teens have no reason to go downtown or anywhere else just to hang out. When they do, problems result. In a perfect world, parents would realize this and be aware where their teens were going. However, we live in a fallen world and a lot of parents either don't know or don't care. The law gives the police a method to get these teens off of Main St. It's likely they will go somewhere else, but hopefully in smaller numbers where they can be better managed.

One of the protests against the curfew was that it restricted freedom of speech and freedom of assembly - two parts of the Bill of Rights. My kids may remember that when they were teenagers, I told them they had no rights. Teens don't have the mental maturity to deal with situations that will come up.

I can easily envision my son, when he was 16, going down to the Falls Park to hang out (if he had been allowed - or under the guise of being at a friend's house). If this had happened and a 31 year old man had been passing out flyers for a sit-in, I can see him joining the protest. Had this happened and he had been arrested, I would have been very angry at someone organizing the protest. I think the case for contributing to the delinquency (arrest) of a minor would be strong.

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