FLORIDA YOUTH TAKE BACK THE STREETS

SPECIAL TO THE ROC by: Ben Markeson


Opposition is growing to the teen-age curfew passed by the Orlando Florida City Council on April 21. The curfew which is supposed to go into effect June 1, would make 12 blocks of downtown Orlando off-limits to those 17 and younger after midnight.

On Wednesday, May 25, as THE ROC was going to press, the Central Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in the local circuit court. The lawsuit contends the curfew is unconstitutional because it violates teenagers' rights of free speech, assembly and due process. The lawsuit seeks a temporary injunction stopping the curfew from going into effect, and a hearing at a later date to determine the ordinance's constitutionality. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are three Central Florida teenagers: Mike Bolen, Tracy Sansbury and Rebecca Franklin; their parents, and the co-owner of a business in the curfew zone.

The ordinance's proponents--mainly city officials claim it was needed because of crimes committed by and against teen-agers in downtown Orlando, which has many nightclubs and bars. Many observers feel, however, that city officials want the ordinance because they think Orlando's image will be hurt by having black, Hispanic, punk, and Goth teenagers on the streets in late June and early July. This is when the city will host several World Cup soccer matches and thousands of foreign tourists.

The ordinance has several troubling provisions, including allowing the city prosecutor to request a state investigation of the home of any teen who is charged with violating the curfew more than three times. Another provision requires businesses in the curfew zone, even those that don't serve alcohol, to check the ID's of all patrons entering their premises after midnight and refuse entry to those under 18. The ordinance also requires business owners and employees to ask those under 18 who are at their business after midnight to leave. If the person refuses to leave, the business owners and employees must "promptly" notify the police of the presence of curfew violators. Businesses that don't follow the provisions pertaining to them can be charged with violation of the ordinance.

The measure gives the police wide discretion in how to handle those who are caught violating it. They can issue a verbal warning or a written trespassing warning or can take the teen into "protective custody" if the officer feels the teen is endangered by his or her surroundings. Teens who are detained will be held at the police headquarters until they are picked up by their parent or guardian. Many curfew opponents feel that it violates individual rights while doing nothing to solve the problems of crime and violence in the downtown area. They also feel the ordinance will be selectively enforced, based on a teen's race, ethnicity, location or appearance.

The opposition to Orlando's curfew is being organized by Kenny Moore, the Florida state representative for Rock Out Censorship, and the Orlando Alliance for Cultural Freedom, a group founded by the publishers of The Orlando Spectator and Poke In The Eye Magazine, local alternative periodicals. Together, ROC and OACF, collected more than 2,000 petition signatures from citizens who opposed the curfew. The signatures were presented to the Orlando City Council during hearings on the curfew held in March and April. ROC and the OACF also organized the "Orlando City Council Liberation March" in mid-April. The nighttime parade and rally attracted about 75 participants and was covered by local TV stations and the local daily newspaper, The Orlando Sentinel.

To learn more about the OACF, call (407) 263-7768.

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