Detroit fireworks curfew could be eased
Detroit — An effort is underway to lessen the impact of a proposed four-day fireworks curfew for minors as the City Council prepares to hold a public hearing Tuesday.
Police Chief James Craig, who proposed this year's tightened curfew, and NAACP Director Wendell Anthony, who doesn't support it, have said they are jointly working on the strategy.
Anthony has recommended recruiting the city's Angel's Night volunteers to help maintain order and supervise children. He's also calling on churches and community groups to join the effort.
"We are going to utilize volunteers as a tentative plan to just be eyes and ears. They won't be chaperoning anyone's kids, and parents will still be responsible for their own children," Detroit Police Sgt. Cassandra Lewis said Monday. "But our volunteers will patrol downtown in case something happens. It'll be the same concept as Angel's Night — they won't be hands-on, they won't be getting involved or detaining people. They'll simply be watching to see if something happens, and, if so, they'll call us."
If the move is helpful, Craig has said he'll consider scaling back — or eliminating — the curfew next year.
The emergency ordinance amendments call for a curfew during the upcoming River Days from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Friday through Sunday, that would be limited to specific areas bounded by the Detroit River. In addition, a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. rule would be put in place for the fireworks display on June 22.
The council is expected to vote on the curfew plan Tuesday. The panel's deadline for a decision is Wednesday.
This year's Detroit Ford Fireworks show will also coincide with the opening of a five-day National Baptist Convention event at Cobo Center.
On its web page, the convention touts the Congress of Christian Education, planned for June 22-26, as an opportunity for "faith-building, fellowship & fireworks!"
"The Baptist Convention is a family event, and there possibly will be some children involved with that," Lewis said.
About 10,000 to 15,000 individuals are expected to attend the conference this year, said Harriet Carter director of bureau services for the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau.
To educate attendees about the curfew proposal, the visitors bureau sent out letters, emails and made literature available at airport terminals and guest hotels, she said.
Councilwoman Mary Sheffield plans to vote in favor of the 6 p.m. curfew for the fireworks show but isn't going to support expanding curfew restrictions for the River Days events.
"I'm against it. It brings police and our youth in contact in a confrontational way," she said, noting the recent scrutiny nationally over interactions between young African-Americans and law enforcement.
Instead, Sheffield says she's also advocating for community involvement. "The community can take back this event and we don't even have to worry about a curfew," she added.
President Pro Tem George Cushingberry Jr. agrees with the curfew plan.
"This is not about race or any unwillingness to have minors participate in the fireworks or River Days," Cushingberry said in a text message. "We are simply asking for supervision of minors by responsible adults."
The curfew recommendations being weighed Tuesday are more lenient than an initial plan for a citywide curfew at 6 p.m. all four days.