The New Orleans Curfew: Keeping Young Blacks Away From Tourists

Critical of the new rules, African-Americans organize a boycott of the French Quarter.

Posted: 01/10/2012 10:22 AM EST

Some New Orleans residents are up in arms criticizing their city council for adopting a law they believe was passed to keep low-income Blacks out of sight of tourists.

On Thursday, the New Orleans City Council approved a strict curfew for people 16 and younger in the French Quarter. The ordinance revises a long-standing 11 P.M. curfew on Friday and Saturday nights to 8 P.M. in the area. In the rest of the city, an 11 P.M. curfew remains. 

To many, it may seem like a good idea: Children are restricted from areas with strip clubs, a large nightlife zone and 350 places to buy booze. But on further inspection, to others, the ban doesn’t appear as harmless. 

In numerous emotional meetings, a large number of participants, mainly African-Americans, criticized the idea, alleging that the lawmakers simply do not want Black teens to be viewed by tourists. 

"There is this desire not to have these Black males in the French Quarter," Tracie L. Washington, an attorney who heads the Louisiana Justice Institute, a nonprofit civil rights group, told the Los Angeles Times. 

In response, Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer, whose district includes the French Quarter, and who also wrote the ordinance, said the legislation is meant to protect children from violent acts like the Halloween night shootings that took place last year, where two people were killed and a dozen injured. 

Despite the councilwoman’s claims, Washington and others have called for an African-American boycott of the French Quarter to begin on Dr. Martin Luther King Day, January 16. 

This isn’t the first time legislation allegedly meant to make the public safer has offended groups, however. When Michael Bloomberg defended New York City’s stop and frisk policies claiming that they are one of the most effective ways to bring down crime, the American Civil Liberties Union found that 88 percent of the 360,000 people stopped and frisked in the first six months of 2011 were innocent and 51 percent were Black.

Additionally, when state legislatures across the country claimed that new, restrictive voting laws would make voting more equal, the NAACP among other groups found that African-Americans and minorities would be disproportionately, and negatively, affected. 

Although New Orleans has seen a remarkable rebuilding effort since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the city still must contend with the racial disparities and injustices that have marked its history. 

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(Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)