An Illegal Curfew: Civil Rights group says Kenosha County Sheriff acted unlawfully
The ACLU of Wisconsin sent a letter to Attorney General Josh Kaul on September 9, highlighting the absence of a legal basis for the curfew in Kenosha, and asking Kaul to investigate law enforcement’s repeated use of force against protesters.
The letter reiterated the organization’s previous demand for an investigation into criminal and unconstitutional conduct of law enforcement officials toward protesters. The ACLU also insisted that the Kenosha District Attorney dismiss all charges for violating the illegal curfew.
Emergency ordinances, like county-wide curfews, must be authorized by local governments, not law enforcement personnel. When the Kenosha Common Council declared a state of emergency on August 25, and transferred emergency powers to the mayor, he failed to provide critical details about the curfew, including where exactly it would be enforced, who was subject to it, and whether or not there were exemptions.
The curfew, the ACLU argued, was unlawfully put into place because it was first issued by Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth, something that the sheriff does not have the authority to do. Emergency ordinances, like county-wide curfews, must be authorized by local governments, not law enforcement personnel.
When the Kenosha Common Council declared a state of emergency on August 25, and transferred emergency powers to the mayor, he failed to provide critical details about the curfew, including where exactly it would be enforced, who was subject to it, and whether or not there were exemptions.
Between August 23 and September 2, 94 people were arrested for violating curfew in Kenosha. Curfew citations were targeted at people protesting police violence and racism, while heavily-armed, white militia members seem to have been given a free pass.
This discriminatory enforcement of the illegal curfew, which clearly is related to whether the police agreed or disagreed with the message of the persons arrested, reflects clear retaliation for exercise of first amendment rights of expression and assembly. Such retaliation resulted in arrested persons spending hours, and in some cases more than a day, in police lock-ups in violation of their rights. We call for an immediate investigation and accountability for those responsible for such discriminatory enforcement of the curfew.
Numerous reports detailed the militarized response to protests used excessive force. Despite having 1,500 National Guard troops from Wisconsin and three other states, military armored vehicles and hundreds of personnel from at least 40 law enforcement agencies, authorities still resorted to excessive force against the demonstrators in Kenosha. As reported by multiple sources, law enforcement agents used militarized tools and tactics, tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, sonic weapons, and pepper balls indiscriminately against demonstrators.
The letter also alluded to the numerous instances in which law enforcement had used excessive force against protesters, which warrants an independent investigation by the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
It should be obvious that the Kenosha Sheriff and the Kenosha Police Department cannot investigate these events. Virtually the entire contingent of personnel of both agencies were involved in these events. For the same reasons that you are investigating the shooting of Jacob Blake, you must undertake an investigation of the subsequent events in Kenosha.