Summer curfew went into effect June 3. If you are under the age of seventeen and caught out weeknights after 9pm in Orleans Parish (8pm for the French Quarter), and after 11pm on Friday and Saturday, you will be picked up by NOPD, taken to a homeless shelter known as Covenant House, and have your parents notified.
You yourself, being a mere minor, will only be charged with a “status offense,” but (like the city’s anti-graffiti ordinance that fines property owners for not cleaning tags off their building within a certain period of time) if you are picked up three times in a calendar year, your parents will face a municipal offense. Once indoors you are not to leave until sunrise. Every day, until August 31st.
“…we know that kids are involved in criminal activity,” says Mayor Cantrell’s justice commissioner Tenisha Stevens. “We’re looking at the kids who are at 1, 2 in the morning pulling on door handles and smashing car windows.”
Cantrell herself speaks of the whole thing more in terms of wildlife management. “If we have too many, we have to work towards a release initiative, again, with the juvenile court as well as with the sheriff’s department. And so that’s a transfer policy that we will have to enforce as well.”
In short, these politicians are telling you that you’re not real people. That you count only insofar as you aid (or do not impede) the forward march of progress and become future wage earners and upstanding citizens. That you are incapable of mature decision-making and that your urges as free, exploratory individuals are a liability. That the body you inhabit, as it were, makes you unfit to govern yourself. That you must be told what to do.
But you know better, don’t you?
You know in your heart and in your brain why they say this. You know why they criminalize you and why this has been done to you for generations.
They’re afraid. They’re afraid because you represent to them something they have lost long ago. Something for which they must create monstrosities — security cameras, fences, police patrols, prisons, enforcement, enforcement, enforcement — to try to tame away.
You, my friends, are free. Your blood burns, feeling the almost overwhelming possibilities stretching before you and knowing, secretly, none of this was made for you. If only you could find your place! If only you could leave your mark! If only you could play without the watchful eyes of authority figures roving over you every minute! Always emanating that silent envy that masks itself behind concern and suspicion.
Can you feel the clock ticking away? The clock that tells you when to wake and when to sleep and for how long until the day when you — subservient, second-class teenager — can go where you wanna go and do what you wanna do…The clock whose ticking tells you “not yet”…”go home”… “one day”… ”submit”…
But now, in this summer heat, your senses beckon. Eyes that wish to see the city late at night—wide open, unpopulated. Ears that wish to hear your own steps echo, ricocheting off the shuttered shop windows, no longer there to sell you anything, no longer bombarded by tourists vying for pictures and trinkets. (Are their “public safety” decrees for you…or for them?)
The chance to create your own deviations and adventures awaits.
Teenagers of New Orleans: These streets belong to you. And no police officer or puny government official has any business telling you otherwise.
Your freedom of movement at any hour is sacred — and your birthright.
Reclaim your streets. Reclaim your city.