Cleveland Heights’ Teen Curfew Brings Questions in Regard to Legality, and Whether It Targets Minorities

Michael O’Malley, Cleveland News, July 1, 2011

This city, known for its liberalism, tolerance and racial diversity, finds itself in the thick of a social dilemma: How do you crack down on trouble-making groups of teenagers–mostly black–without violating civil rights or appearing to be racist?

In the wake of disruptions at the Coventry Street Fair on Sunday by hundreds of the teens, the city kicked into emergency mode, adopting a draconian curfew Wednesday. The new law, which took effect Thursday, prohibits anyone under 18 to be in the Coventry Village or Cedar-Lee commercial areas after 6 p.m. unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

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The new curfew provides a few exceptions, such as for a minor running an errand for a parent or working in the commercial districts.

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Sunday’s street fair, held between 12:30 p.m. and 6 p.m., attracted thousands of people from all over Greater Cleveland. About 5 p.m., large groups of the teens rushed through the crowd, pushing people over and sparking fights.

The upheaval spilled into nearby upper-middle-class, mostly white neighborhoods. Neighbors said they witnessed large groups of young black men walking in the middle of quiet, tree-lined side streets shouting profanities and racial epithets.

Someone tossed an empty liquor bottle on the sidewalk at the home of Paula Coakley on East Overlook Road. “I said, ‘Hey, you dropped something,” said Coakley. “But they just laughed and kept walking.”

Down on the corner of East Overlook and Washington Boulevard, a group of about 25 teens gathered to egg on two kids squaring off for a fistfight. Homeowner Joy Roller called the police and yelled at the gang to keep moving. She said she was met with shouts of profanity.

Roller said the police told her, “We know, it’s going on all over the city now.”

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Despite wide support for the new curfew, some people are bothered by what they view as an undercurrent of racism.

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Police Chief Jeffrey Robertson, acknowledging the street fair melees were triggered by young blacks, said the city’s response would have been the same if the brawlers had been white.

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The county prosecutor’s office said Michael Madison of Cleveland Heights, along with his wife and two friends, were leaving Anatolia Cafe when Madison was jumped by a black teenager who was backed by other teens. The teenager, a juvenile, called to his friends, “Let’s do them.”

Madison suffered broken facial bones and had to get stitches. The teenager has been charged with felonious assault and aggravated robbery, according to a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office. The teen is scheduled for a court appearance this month.

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  • Anonymous

    Gee, isn’t this profiling teens? Why not a curfew for everybody? Equality and non-discrimination demands that no one group is at a disadvantage to another.

  • whiteraven

    “How do you crack down on trouble-making groups of teenagers—mostly black—without violating civil rights or appearing to be racist?”

    How screwed up is someone who worries about appearing to be racist instead of giving out-of-control black crime first priority?

    This is what a falling empire looks like in its death throes.

  • William Hendershot

    Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights are two bordering communities that pioneered the “managed” integration movement in the 60’s. Now most of the libs have left, and those that have stayed send their children to private schools, inspite of extremely high property taxes. Both communities remind me of Baltimore, in that they have a mix of moderately priced homes and very high end homes. Both of these cities struggle to control the mess that blacks have caused, with predictable results. They just can’t bring themselves to admit they were wrong, at least not publicly. I’m sure many will admit they wrong privately, however.

  • Question Diversity

    This city, known for its liberalism, tolerance and racial diversity, finds itself in the thick of a social dilemma: How do you crack down on trouble-making groups of teenagers—mostly black—without violating civil rights or appearing to be racist?

    It’s impossible, because “liberalism, tolerance and diversity,” beget “trouble making groups of mostly black teenagers.” Actions have consequences.

    In the wake of disruptions at the Coventry Street Fair on Sunday by hundreds of the teens, the city kicked into emergency mode, adopting a draconian curfew Wednesday. The new law, which took effect Thursday, prohibits anyone under 18 to be in the Coventry Village or Cedar-Lee commercial areas after 6 p.m. unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

    This reads to me like Cleveland Heights wants to become one of those rumored “sundown towns.”

    I have said it before both here and on my own soapbox, and stories like these only drive home the point. Left unfettered and left to their own devices, anyone who has governing responsibility over blacks, be they white racialists, white liberals, other blacks (even other blacks that made a career out of opposing segregation), or anyone for that matter, will, subconsciously, salami-slicing style, one by one, bit by bit, piece by piece, institute or re-institute something eerily similar to Jim Crow or segregation apartheid. Obviously thanks to the Federal government, we’re not left unfettered and to our own devices in that regard.

  • sbuffalonative

    How do you crack down on trouble-making groups of teenagers—mostly black—without violating civil rights or appearing to be racist?

    You can’t.

    They complain no one cares about them or is doing anything but when something is done, they scream ‘racism’.

    It’s always a waste of time trying to help blacks so don’t bother.

    Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.