Following the lead of Birmingham and other municipalities in the metro area, the Jefferson County Commission today implemented an emergency curfew to thwart violent, destructive acts like those seen Sunday night.
“This coincides with the curfews of many of our municipalities,” Commission President Jimmie Stephens said at an emergency commission meeting, “and is an effort to unify our response to this crisis.”
The resolution – which passed 4-0 with Commissioner Lashunda Scales absent – sets a curfew in place for unincorporated Jefferson County beginning today and running through next Tuesday, June 9, when the need for a curfew will be reviewed.
The curfew daily runs from 7 p.m. until 6 a.m. The order prohibits anyone from holding or participating in a demonstration, parade, march or vigil on any public ways or property.
The curfew offers exceptions for persons who are traveling to obtain medical assistance, food or other commodity or service needed to “sustain the well-being of themselves or their families or some member thereof.”
County attorney Theo Lawson said the commission’s action is imposed on the political jurisdiction and political subdivision, meaning even municipalities that have not passed their own curfew orders can enforce it.
“It is up to the local or the appropriate law enforcement agencies to enforce it,” he said. “Jefferson County will enforce it in unincorporated Jefferson County, and municipalities within the political subdivision of Jefferson County can enforce it with their local authority should they choose to do so.”
Commissioner Joe Knight said the vandalism that happened in downtown Birmingham Sunday night is not going to be tolerated in the rest of the county. He said later that someone tried to break into the Academy Sports and Outdoors location in Trussville and an establishment in Pleasant Grove, likely trying to steal guns.
“That concerns us,” he said. “Everybody stands on alert. We’ve had enough dealing with this coronavirus and now this. But our job is to provide the citizens with safety and that’s exactly what we’ll do.”
Commissioner Sheila Tyson said she doesn’t condone the violence and destruction that began in Linn Park in downtown Birmingham and spread elsewhere.
“But what’s going on now is just shining the light of the despair that’s been in the black community for centuries,” she said. “The community is just tired. You have a whole new generation. These young people are not going to put up with what’s going on.”
Stephens said he understands the outrage felt by many and shares that outrage. But, he added, violence and destruction don’t honor the Minneapolis man whose life was taken.
“Mr. Floyd’s memory should not be diluted or tainted in any way by the violence that’s going on nationwide right now,” the commission president said. “We cannot mingle a social issue with a violent act. Dr. (Martin Luther) King was not a proponent of violence. Dr. King was a proponent of peaceful protest.
“We deserve better than what we got the other night,” Stephens said. “When you throw Molotov cocktails and you break windows, you are not honoring Mr. Floyd.”