Birmingham has once again been placed under curfew — though this time, the curfew is intended to quell civil unrest, not COVID-19.
The curfew is a response to Sunday night’s violent protests, Mayor Randall Woodfin said. Those demonstrations, which were ostensibly to protest the May 25 death of Minneapolis man George Floyd at the hands of police officers, turned angry as protestors in Linn Park defaced a controversial Confederate monument and, tried to set fire to a statue of Thomas Jefferson, and deface two monuments to post-confederacy military workers outside the Jefferson County Courthouse.
Pockets of the protest looked more like riots as they spilled over into the north side of the downtown area; Birmingham Police Chief Patrick D. Smith told reporters Monday that 14 businesses had been burglarized, while another 13 businesses “had significant damage — property damage, looting, broken windows, and things of that nature.” Fire Chief Cory Moon added that his department had responded to 22 fire calls Sunday night as a result of the protests. Police also reported 24 arrests among the protestors.
“I want you to know that I 100% support civil disobedience,” Woodfin said in a Monday morning press conference announcing the curfew. “That is very different from civil unrest. I support activism and your right to peacefully assemble, but I don’t support mobs and people destroying things just because … What started as a productive demonstration took a turn.”
The curfew extends from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., Woodfin said, and does not yet have a set end date. Essential workers will be exempted from the curfew, though he added that those workers should get documentation from their employers because “travel on public streets and roadways will be restricted” by the Birmingham Police Department.
“We won’t be playing,” he said. “We outright reject the looters and the anarchists, and we will happily arrest you. We will be aggressive in bringing them to justice.”
Smith added that the police department “will be out in force” to enforce the curfew. “While we do not want to make arrests, I think you’ve put us in a position where we will,” he said, pleading with residents to stay home. Smith also said that his department was gathering evidence from videos taken Sunday night. “It is our intent as a police department to follow up on every single crime,” he said. “We will look for and collect every single video we can find.”
Woodfin said that Sunday night’s protests “will not define the city of Birmingham.”
“Birmingham, this is not us,” he said. “This is not who we are. This is not how we taught the world how to protest. Violence, bullying and chaos is not the road to reform … Nobody deserves what happened last night.”
Reed Woodfin’s full text of the curfew proclamation.