Houston Curfew Follows Many in Big Cities Facing Disaster or Unrest

New York Times – by Matthew Haag

The mayor of Houston imposed a curfew in his city on Tuesday, ordering nearly everyone off the streets from midnight to 5 a.m. in an effort to stop “small-scale looting” and other crimes following prodigious flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey. Houston has a population of 2.3 million people spread across nearly 670 square miles, making the curfew among the largest and most expansive in United States history.

In times of natural disasters or violent unrest, American cities have imposed curfews to try to bring order during chaos. The following curfews were some of the largest or most significant in the country’s history.

1992: Riots in Los Angeles

The acquittal of four Los Angeles police officers on April 29, 1992, in the vicious beating of Rodney G. King, a black motorist, prompted widespread looting, relentless violence and arson in the city. Hundreds of fires burned throughout the city; firefighters racing to extinguish them were shot at; and looters snatched merchandise from stores.

Seeing no signs of conditions improving, Mayor Tom Bradley imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the worst parts of the city on April 30, but soon expanded it to all of Los Angeles, which then had a population of more than 3.4 million.

National Guard troops were brought in to help enforce the curfew. Guard members were placed across the city, including near Koreatown, the heart of some of the worst rioting.

“There is no way the police can arrest everybody on the street,” Mr. Bradley, discussing the curfew, told The Los Angeles Times. “What we’re really looking for here is voluntary compliance.”

The curfew worked, contributing to a sharp decline in violence and looting, and Mr. Bradley lifted the curfew on May 3.

The riots also spread to cities outside Los Angeles, including San Francisco, where the city issued its first state of emergency since the 1906 earthquake and imposed several days of nighttime curfews.

1965: Watts riots in Los Angeles

Six days of violence in the Watts section of Los Angeles started with a traffic stop on a warm afternoon on Aug. 11, 1965. Officer Lee W. Minikus, a white California Highway Patrol officer, spotted a swerving car in South-Central Los Angeles, figured the driver was drunk and pulled him over.

What transpired next is still not fully clear. But Officer Minikus and the driver of the car, Marquette Frye, a 21-year-old black man, were first seen joking. Then something happened — and rumors quickly spread through the neighborhood that Mr. Frye’s mother arrived and scolded her son for being drunk, and then she or her son or both were beaten by the police.

As the police took Mr. Frye away to jail, he said in an interview years later, he overheard a friend say, “Don’t worry; we’re going to burn this mother down.”

That’s exactly what happened.

From Aug. 11 to Aug. 16, riots erupted in Watts, a predominately black neighborhood south of downtown, and spread to several dozen square miles of Los Angeles, which had a population of about 2.5 million. About 20,000 Guard members were called in and an additional 1,000 police officers were brought in to try to restore peace, as a chunk of Los Angeles turned into a war zone. Snipers shot at the police and fires raged.

“It’s a mess,” Lieut. Gen. Roderick Hill of the California National Guard told The New York Times.

The state issued a curfew starting at 8 p.m. on Aug. 14 for 46.5 square miles of Los Angeles, including Watts, which encompassed hundreds of thousands of people. In the end, 34 people died, including some law enforcement officers, and thousands were injured. More than 600 buildings were damaged.

1967: Police raid in Detroit

The spark that set off five days of riots in Detroit was a police raid at a after-hours club popular with the city’s black residents on July 23, 1967. Nearly 100 people were arrested, and word spread. A mob of people showed up outside the bar on 12th Street and started pelting the police with bottles and bricks, the start of multiple days of unrest, looting and violence.

By that night, the city’s mayor had required many business to close early and ordered people to abide by a 9 p.m. curfew. It was lifted on Aug. 1.

The violence left 43 people dead and nearly 1,200 people injured.

1968: Democratic National Convention in Chicago

The Democratic National Convention in 1968 took place in Chicago at the end of a summer filled with anxiety, frustration and outright rebellion across the United States.

The country was stuck in a war in Vietnam, where 541,000 American troops were fighting a seemingly endless, unwinnable battle. A few weeks before the convention convened in August, the Pentagon announced that more than 27,500 troops had died in Vietnam, 171,000 more injured. In addition, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated in April, and Robert F. Kennedy in June.

America was set to erupt — and it did on the streets of Chicago.

Thousands of antiwar protesters flooded Chicago ahead of the convention, which started on Aug. 31. Fights broke out on the convention floor, and Dan Rather, then a CBS reporter, was attacked on TV. Outside the convention, protesters clashed with the police and the National Guard.

To try to disperse the protesters, Mayor Richard J. Daley ordered an 11 p.m. curfew starting the night before the start of the convention for the city’s parks, where antiwar protesters had built camps. Law enforcement officers fired gas and beat protesters to move them out of the park. News reporters were also beaten and arrested.

2005: Hurricane Katrina

Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans and state officials imposed a dawn-to-dusk curfew across the city following Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. One of the city’s hardest-hit areas, Jefferson Parish, had an all-day curfew. Other places along the gulf coast, including Biloxi, Miss., also imposed nighttime curfews.

In New Orleans, the curfew, which lasted months, was not enforced evenly across the city. Revelers in the French Quarter were not forced to go home at nightfall. Some bar owners said they defied the curfew order because the devastated city needed business from tourists.

2013: Lockdown in Boston

Boston came to a standstill on the morning of April 19, 2013. On the hunt for one of the two brothers who placed bombs at the Boston Marathon earlier that week, the authorities asked everyone in the city and some surrounding towns to “shelter in place” during the vast dragnet.

The lockdown on that Friday turned Boston into a ghost town. Stores were empty, streets bare. Businesses were closed. The Red Sox game at Fenway was canceled. And one couple was stuck in a prolonged one-night stand.

But then the city burst into jubilation that night after law enforcement officers tracked the suspect, Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, to a boat in a backyard in suburban Watertown. The lockdown was over.

New York Times

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