Reno curfew causes confusion

COUNCIL RECONSIDERS ORDER THAT CLOSED BUSINESSES

PHOTO/FRANK X. MULLEN: You can be outside after sundown, just not out in a public place. But that's about to change.
UPDATE: Reno officials the afternoon of June 3 rescinded the citywide curfew order, but encouraged the public to limit gatherings to 50 people or fewer on public streets, plazas and other public spaces, nightly from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. until further notice. Jason Soto, Reno police chief and acting city manager, said city police reserve “the right to disperse large gatherings when they become an imminent threat to public safety.”

By Frank X. Mullen

Just when Reno bars, restaurants and shops finally opened up – they were seemingly ordered to close down again.

A Tuesday city curfew ordered that no one was allowed on Reno streets after 7 p.m. with the exception of police and a few other authorized people. The order was issued at about 5:30 p.m. and some Reno  businesses, including shops, restaurants, bars and even supermarkets shut down within the next 90 minutes. Some business owners thought the order might not require them to shut down, but said they closed anyhow because they figured the public would see the order and stay home. Some called their city council representatives.

“(The order) wasn’t very clear,” said Larry DeVincenzi , owner of Rum Sugar Lime in Midtown. “I texted (Councilman) Devon Reese right away and even he wasn’t sure. We had to figure it out as we went along there.” DeVincenzi kept Rum Sugar Lime open and let regular patrons know they could visit. “We had a pretty good night because we were able to get the clarification and update our fans on line. But I don’t think that happened to too many people.”

Reese, who was on his way into a council meeting Wednesday morning and didn’t have time for an immediate interview, said he expected the order to be amended and clarified today.

The confusion began when Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve announced late Tuesday that a citywide curfew was again in place and will “continue until terminated.” The order is in force nightly from 7 p.m. until 5 a.m. the next morning. The curfew is a reaction to a riot that roiled the city Saturday night after a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest took place downtown in daylight. The protest was in reaction to the death of George Floyd, an African-American man killed by police in Minneapolis. Vandals caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to City Hall, the Reno police headquarters and businesses. Riot officers used tear gas to break up the crowds and the National Guard was called up to help maintain order.

The mayor’s statement limited who could be outside: “during the hours of the curfew, no person — with the exception of law enforcement, military and other emergency response personnel, government officials and authorized media — shall enter or remain in the public right of way, public parks or any other public place in Reno unless they have an essential reason to be out.” The term “authorized media” wasn’t defined. Local police agencies stopped issuing official press passes to mainstream media outlets more than 20 years ago after bloggers started requesting the credentials.

The curfew order states that “essential reasons” include, but are not limited to, going to or from work, seeking emergency care, and more. Schieve noted “there is currently no threat to the community.”  She added that the curfew is not meant to “prevent lawful and orderly protests and demonstrations or to curtail the right of the public to engage in free speech or lawful assembly as authorized by the United States Constitution,” but noted there will continue to be a heavy police presence throughout the city. Critics said the broad order gives police a lot of latitude to “stop and frisk” anyone they please and raises the same issues of discriminatory treatment raised by Floyd’s death and the protests that followed.

Tod Story, Nevada executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the mayor’s announcement  “raises serious constitutional questions that need to be remedied. Any curfew order requires an imminent threat of danger or harm and must be limited to the specific places in the city where the harm is likely to take place, not the entire city.” He noted in a statement that the order fails to “identify a present state of civil disorder to warrant even one evening of a forced curfew. In fact, the order expressly states that ‘there are currently no known threats to the Reno community.’”

“The indefinite nature of the order invites arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement. It places all members of the community, especially people of color, at risk of engaging in the hostile interactions that demonstrations across the country seek to eradicate, and it undermines the people’s right to peaceably assemble. We encourage the mayor to rethink this strategy immediately.”

Tod Story, Nevada executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union

The rethinking is happening today.

DeVincenzi said he doesn’t blame the mayor for the mix up. “I think we have to give everybody a little slack,” he said. “It wasn’t really an error; it was more of an omission. The order just didn’t mention businesses.”

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