Could a more strict youth curfew help keep the First Fridays Art Walks alive? That was one of the options City Council members proposed last week.
Put mildly, it was a rough summer for city’s premier art walk. With school out, organizer Christina Newton estimates that 2,000 young people flocked to Broad Street for the June and July events, which usually draws 3,000 people. Fights and arrests marred both.
At a Public Safety Committee meeting, Councilman Chris Hilbert requested that the city attorney explore ways to limit the event to adults, in part by expanding the existing curfew for people younger than 18, from 11 p.m. to 9 p.m. during the monthly art walk.
The idea isn’t original. When teens in Philadelphia began organizing into groups and attacking pedestrians this summer, Mayor Michael Nutter issued an executive order imposing a 9 p.m. curfew on anyone younger than 18. Any minor found lingering in the two areas of the city where the attacks took place would be fined $300.
Despite grousing from some quarters, Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald says that the policy has been well received. Arrests and reports of violence have trailed off since young people and their parents have gotten the message, and an ordinance has been introduced that would expand the new rules to the entire city.
Similarly, any permanent changes to Richmond’s own curfew laws would have to be enacted by City Council. Some members say they’re at least open to discussing amending the ordinance. Others stress that the incidents at First Fridays are not just a problem for the public.
Says Councilman Charles Samuels: “There’s only so much that the city can do to parent children.”