Monday, June 27, 2022

Protests in Wilmington lead to beach town and county-wide curfews — but why?

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — For the most part, protests in New Hanover County have been predominately focused on Downtown Wilmington — so why is the entire county on an indefinite curfew?

Because in North Carolina municipalities have their own jurisdictions, county ordinances do not always apply anywhere in an incorporated district (i.e. a city, town, or village). Municipalities actually have to make their own declarations or agree to the county’s regulations (which is what has mostly happened in New Hanover County).

Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, and Kure Beach all agreed to enforce the current curfew that both Wilmington and New Hanover County enacted, despite no evidence of protests — peaceful or otherwise — in their towns.

While it is not uncommon for the municipalities to come together for the sake of uniformity, the additional restrictions are being questioned by residents who are suddenly facing more government control.

The curfews that are in effect are from 9 p.m. — 5 a.m. and as of now, they are indefinite. However, unlike protests against Covid-19 closures, there has been little community resistance to the possibly unwarranted curfews. In fact, in Carolina Beach, residents took to the streets to march against the government closure of businesses in April, something protestors called government overreach — there have been no such protests or marches planned for the indefinite curfew.

Related: In photos: Carolina Beach protesters march to reopen businesses, beach strand

When asked why exactly the town decided to enact a curfew and whether or not the town had seen any protests, Town Manager Bruce Oakley responded.

“The Town strongly supports the constitutional right of citizens to hold peaceful protests and demonstrations and we were not aware of any planned protests in Carolina Beach. However, we felt it was appropriate to be consistent with New Hanover County and consented to their curfew order. Since the curfew did not prevent open businesses from operating and did not restrict individuals from moving about freely, we felt it would not likely interfere with our citizen’s daily lives,” he said.

Town Manager of Wrightsville Beach Tim Owens had a similar statement.

“The Town followed the lead of Wilmington and the County.  All governmental entities in New Hanover County are now under a State of Emergency and Curfew.  Given the events in the U.S. and worldwide, the threat exists in all communities. A SOE and curfew allows for governmental entities to be proactive in preventing bad behavior should it arise,” Owens said.

New Hanover County Manager Chris Coudriet also weighed in on why the county decided to enact a curfew for its unincorporated areas.

“New Hanover County, in collaboration with the City of Wilmington, wanted to ensure that the unincorporated county was in line with the city as much as possible, to provide a safe environment for peaceful protests to take place during daylight hours. This helps with law enforcement resources and creates consistency across the community to eliminate confusion. This type of coordination with the city is common,” Coudriet said.

“The county’s curfew is specific to gatherings and does not prohibit individuals from driving to or from destinations or visiting businesses that are open. The main intent of the county’s curfew is to prevent large gatherings of more than 10 in public spaces, and the county hopes to lift the curfew on gatherings as soon as possible,” he concluded.

It is true that these curfews do have caveats to them that allow businesses to operate, however, there are concerns that the curfew gives police the ability to stop people without cause simply for being out past 9 p.m.

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