Curfews Make Life Even Harder For Essential Workers

Debora Carley

Medical personnel, grocery store employees and food delivery workers were already carrying more than their share of the burden of the novel coronavirus outbreak. Now they have something else to worry about. Cities including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington have imposed curfews in recent days in response […]

Medical personnel, grocery store employees and food delivery workers were already carrying more than their share of the burden of the novel coronavirus outbreak. Now they have something else to worry about.

Cities including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington have imposed curfews in recent days in response to the ongoing demonstrations against police violence around the nation. Essential workers are technically exempt from these restrictions, but no one on city streets after curfew has been exempt from the aggressive and brutal police response to the protests, which began after a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd.

The very people who are asked to put their lives at risk working during a pandemic ― often for low wages ― face the prospect of being arrested and detained on their way to or from work. The fact that laborers such as food delivery workers are disproportionately people of color puts them at even greater risk.

That risk is more than theoretical. Police assaulted a hospital employee leaving work in Brooklyn, New York, this week, the Daily Beast reported

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio established a curfew from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. that started Tuesday and will continue until next Monday. It could be extended. Monday also happens to be the day the state of New York intended to begin the first phase of relaxing stay-at-home orders related to the coronavirus outbreak. 

The city permits certain essential workers — including health care, restaurant and grocery store workers — to be outside during curfew hours. But the New York Police Department said that anyone stopped by officers must prove their status. How they would do so is unclear. Certain workers, such as hospital employees, may have identification from their employers, but bicycle delivery workers or cashiers may not.

“Unless you’re doing essential work, you should go home. If you don’t go home, there’s obviously going to be a lot of police presence to address the situation,” de Blasio said at a news conference Tuesday.

In practice, however, video footage from New York, Los Angeles, Washington and other cities shows that police officers aren’t taking pains to ask questions or listen to explanations from the people they detain. At a time when police are using extreme measures on demonstrators, bystanders and journalists, curfews appear to give them the license to arrest anyone for any reason after hours. Police have even targeted medics who attend protests to provide medical care to injured demonstrators.

As an example, journalists in New York are supposed to be exempt as essential workers under de Blasio’s order. But even those whose status is obvious to anyone have been subject to violent actions by police or have been detained for breaking curfew. In one incident, police harassed an Associated Press news crew covering the protests.

Making matters worse, curfews and coronavirus-related restrictions on public transportation complicate the simple task of getting to and from work.

In New York, fewer trains have been running on the subway because of reduced demand during the public health crisis. No trains run at all between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., a departure from the city’s normal 24-hour subway service, although buses continue to operate. During the protests, the city has also barred rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft from providing service until after 12:30 a.m. Ordinary taxis remain available, but they’re not easy to find. The city also shut down the Citi Bike bike-share service during curfew.

These actions pose serious problems in a city where the majority of residents don’t own motor vehicles. 

Mayors and politicians at all levels of government have spent the last several months extolling the virtues of essential workers. But curfews that endanger people trying to get to or from essential work make that praise ring hollow.

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<i>A protester at an anti-racism demonstration in London on June 3 holds a sign that reads: "Our skin is not a weapon." </i>
A protester at an anti-racism demonstration in London on June 3 holds a sign that reads: “Our skin is not a weapon.”
<i>A demonstrator in Brooklyn, New York, calls for justice for George Floyd and other victims of police violence with a sign that reads: "I understand that I will never understand. However, I stand. #peaceandjustice"</i>
A demonstrator in Brooklyn, New York, calls for justice for George Floyd and other victims of police violence with a sign that reads: “I understand that I will never understand. However, I stand. #peaceandjustice”
<i>Breezy Rose of Kansas posted this photo of her husband holding a sign that says "Stop killing us" and her daughter holding a sign that says "Please don't shoot my dad" on Instagram. In the caption, Breezy wrote: "When I tell you I cried after snapping this picture at a rally for George Floyd today, I sobbed. This is our reality. This is reality for every black person in our country. Today I wept for George Floyd, for Breonna Taylor, for Ahmaud Arbery, for Eric Garner, for Sandra Bland, for Tamir Rice and for so many others. Today I wept for my husband having to teach this to our daughter. And today I wept for our daughter, who has to grow up with this fear. Today, we wept. But tomorrow, we fight." </i>
Breezy Rose of Kansas posted this photo of her husband holding a sign that says “Stop killing us” and her daughter holding a sign that says “Please don’t shoot my dad” on Instagram. In the caption, Breezy wrote: “When I tell you I cried after snapping this picture at a rally for George Floyd today, I sobbed. This is our reality. This is reality for every black person in our country. Today I wept for George Floyd, for Breonna Taylor, for Ahmaud Arbery, for Eric Garner, for Sandra Bland, for Tamir Rice and for so many others. Today I wept for my husband having to teach this to our daughter. And today I wept for our daughter, who has to grow up with this fear. Today, we wept. But tomorrow, we fight.”
<i>Demonstrators march near Lafayette Park across from the White House on June 2 in Washington, D.C. The sign on the left says, "I'd like to speak to the manager of systemic racism, please." The other reads: "Black Lives Matter."</i>
Demonstrators march near Lafayette Park across from the White House on June 2 in Washington, D.C. The sign on the left says, “I’d like to speak to the manager of systemic racism, please.” The other reads: “Black Lives Matter.”
<i>Demonstrators protest police brutality at Bayfront Park in downtown Miami on May 30. The sign reads: "No lives matter til Black lives matter. #saytheirnames"<br></i>
Demonstrators protest police brutality at Bayfront Park in downtown Miami on May 30. The sign reads: “No lives matter til Black lives matter. #saytheirnames”
<i>Courtney, a nurse, attends a sit-in protest in Saint Paul, Minnesota, on June 2. (She was wearing a mask but removed it for the photo, she said). The sign reads: "What color am I when I save your life? Signed, a Black R.N."</i>
Courtney, a nurse, attends a sit-in protest in Saint Paul, Minnesota, on June 2. (She was wearing a mask but removed it for the photo, she said). The sign reads: “What color am I when I save your life? Signed, a Black R.N.”
<i>Atlanta protester Maya Nicole is working with the organization <a href="https://www.instagram.com/millennialcivilrights/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Millennial Civil Rights" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Millennial Civil Rights</a> on a campaign called <a href="https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/wesaveus/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:#WeSaveUs" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">#WeSaveUs</a>. Her sign says: "We deserve more than justice. We deserve a better reality."</i>
Atlanta protester Maya Nicole is working with the organization Millennial Civil Rights on a campaign called #WeSaveUs. Her sign says: “We deserve more than justice. We deserve a better reality.”
<i>New York City demonstrators walk from Foley Square past 1 Police Plaza on their way to Washington Square Park for a peaceful moment of reflection for those killed by police. The sign on the left reads: "We pay you to protect us, not kill us."</i>
New York City demonstrators walk from Foley Square past 1 Police Plaza on their way to Washington Square Park for a peaceful moment of reflection for those killed by police. The sign on the left reads: “We pay you to protect us, not kill us.”
<i>A woman holds up a sign with the Martin Luther King Jr. quote "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" during a protest in Manhattan Beach, California, on June 2.</i>
A woman holds up a sign with the Martin Luther King Jr. quote “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” during a protest in Manhattan Beach, California, on June 2.
<i>A man holds up a sign that says "Am I next?" at a Manhattan Beach, California, protest on June 2. </i>
A man holds up a sign that says “Am I next?” at a Manhattan Beach, California, protest on June 2.
<i>An NYPD officer walks by a banner reading "Say Their Names" on June 1 in Brooklyn, New York. </i>
An NYPD officer walks by a banner reading “Say Their Names” on June 1 in Brooklyn, New York.
<i>During a June 1 protest near the White House over the death of George Floyd, a demonstrator holds a sign that says: "It could have been my son."</i>
During a June 1 protest near the White House over the death of George Floyd, a demonstrator holds a sign that says: “It could have been my son.”
<i>Protester holds a sign that says "Indifference is evil" during an anti-racism demonstration in London on June 3. </i>
Protester holds a sign that says “Indifference is evil” during an anti-racism demonstration in London on June 3.
<i>Protesters gather outside the residence of Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on June 1. One man's sign reads: "Video taker: A national hero."</i>
Protesters gather outside the residence of Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on June 1. One man’s sign reads: “Video taker: A national hero.”
<i>On June 1, a protester in Brooklyn, New York, holds a sign that reads: "4 my future Black kids."</i>
On June 1, a protester in Brooklyn, New York, holds a sign that reads: “4 my future Black kids.”
<i>A close-up of a sign that says: "The colour of my skin should not place a target on my back" during a May 31 protest outside Cardiff Castle in Wales.</i>
A close-up of a sign that says: “The colour of my skin should not place a target on my back” during a May 31 protest outside Cardiff Castle in Wales.
<i>A woman holds a drawing of George Floyd with "I can't breathe" written underneath as thousands of people join a Black Lives Matter march through central London on May 31.</i>
A woman holds a drawing of George Floyd with “I can’t breathe” written underneath as thousands of people join a Black Lives Matter march through central London on May 31.
<i>Protesters hold posters and shout slogans as they march in central London on June 3. The sign in the foreground says: "You have no authority to kill a minority."</i>
Protesters hold posters and shout slogans as they march in central London on June 3. The sign in the foreground says: “You have no authority to kill a minority.”
<i>A seated protester holds a sign during a June 2 demonstration in Los Angeles over the death of George Floyd.</i>
A seated protester holds a sign during a June 2 demonstration in Los Angeles over the death of George Floyd.
<i>A protester holds up a piece of yellow plastic that reads, "Don't shoot" while participating in a demonstration outside the Forest Hills MBTA Station in Boston on June 2.</i>
A protester holds up a piece of yellow plastic that reads, “Don’t shoot” while participating in a demonstration outside the Forest Hills MBTA Station in Boston on June 2.
<i>In Boyertown, Pennsylvania, a protester holds a sign that says "Charge the other 3," referring to the other three police officers present when their colleague kneeled on George Floyd's neck and killed him. The former officers have <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/3-cops-charged-george-floyd-death_n_5ed15c7cc5b63f2b5793fa50" data-ylk="slk:since been charged" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">since been charged</a> with aiding and abetting.</i>
In Boyertown, Pennsylvania, a protester holds a sign that says “Charge the other 3,” referring to the other three police officers present when their colleague kneeled on George Floyd’s neck and killed him. The former officers have since been charged with aiding and abetting.
<i>Demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd hold up placards near Lafayette Park across from the White House on June 2 in Washington, D.C. The sign in the center reads: "Who do u protect?" </i>
Demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd hold up placards near Lafayette Park across from the White House on June 2 in Washington, D.C. The sign in the center reads: “Who do u protect?”
<i>A protester kneels as he holds a placard that says "Stop killer cops!!!!" in front of a row of Army National Guard troops during a June 2 demonstration in Hollywood, California.</i>
A protester kneels as he holds a placard that says “Stop killer cops!!!!” in front of a row of Army National Guard troops during a June 2 demonstration in Hollywood, California.
<i>A protester holds a sign that says "Blue Lives Murder" on May 29 in Minneapolis.</i>
A protester holds a sign that says “Blue Lives Murder” on May 29 in Minneapolis.
<i>In Sydney, protesters prepare to march on Parliament House at the Archibald Fountain in Hyde Park on June 2. The one in the foreground reads: "We're not trying to start a race war. We're trying to end one." </i>
In Sydney, protesters prepare to march on Parliament House at the Archibald Fountain in Hyde Park on June 2. The one in the foreground reads: “We’re not trying to start a race war. We’re trying to end one.”
<i>Protest signs posted outside the U.S. Consulate General in Edinburgh, Scotland, in response to the police killing of George Floyd. One reads: "Stop looting Black lives. End police brutality." </i>
Protest signs posted outside the U.S. Consulate General in Edinburgh, Scotland, in response to the police killing of George Floyd. One reads: “Stop looting Black lives. End police brutality.”
<i>New York protesters take part in a June 1 demonstration in response to the death of George Floyd. The sign on the left reads: "In unity we have strength;" the one on the right reads: "We have suffered enough." </i>
New York protesters take part in a June 1 demonstration in response to the death of George Floyd. The sign on the left reads: “In unity we have strength;” the one on the right reads: “We have suffered enough.”
<i>People shout slogans during a June 1 protest at Dam Square in Amsterdam over the death of George Floyd. The banner reads: "Police violence is not an accident." </i>
People shout slogans during a June 1 protest at Dam Square in Amsterdam over the death of George Floyd. The banner reads: “Police violence is not an accident.”
<i>People carry a banner that says "We the people refuse to see cops murder citizens and walk free" as they march to protest the death of George Floyd on May 31 in Portland, Oregon.</i>
People carry a banner that says “We the people refuse to see cops murder citizens and walk free” as they march to protest the death of George Floyd on May 31 in Portland, Oregon.
<i>A woman holds up a sign that says "Our black children need a future" during a May 31 protest outside Cardiff Castle in Wales/</i>
A woman holds up a sign that says “Our black children need a future” during a May 31 protest outside Cardiff Castle in Wales/
<i>During a Black Lives Matter protest in London's Hyde Park on June 3, a protester holds up a sign that says "White silence = Black death."</i>
During a Black Lives Matter protest in London’s Hyde Park on June 3, a protester holds up a sign that says “White silence = Black death.”
<i>A protester holds a sign with the names of victims of police brutality during a rally in Coral Gables, Florida, on May 30.</i>
A protester holds a sign with the names of victims of police brutality during a rally in Coral Gables, Florida, on May 30.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

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