WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The city of Wilmington and New Hanover County announced a curfew will go into effect Tuesday night, after the last two nights of protests ended poorly.
The curfew goes into effect from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. for the indefinite future. City and county leaders acknowledged the burning and looting that’s going on in cities across the country, and even here in our state.
“Other North Carolina towns have seen gunfire and buildings set on fire,” Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said. “That is not protesting. That is not healing. that is violence.”
Saffo says the protests on Sunday and Monday both started out peacefully, but took a turn as the night went on.
District Attorney Ben David says their goal was to keep everyone safe and let the protest play out as long as it remained peaceful. But he says they’ve had to take proactive measures to keep things from getting out of hand.
“We are not going to tolerate violence and we are not going to apologize for stamping out violent activity when we see it, and we’re going to nip it in the bud when it occurs,” David said.
The curfew applies to the city of Wilmington, as well as all other unincorporated areas of New Hanover County. The city attorney says it applies to people on foot.
“The intent of this order is to clear the public areas of non essential, again non essential foot traffic,” City Attorney John Joye said. “We’re not looking to shut down any legitimate licensed businesses that are open under the Governor’s COVID-19 order.”
Joye says the curfew targets people who are loitering on sidewalks, parks and similar public areas.
Leaders also addressed the actions law enforcement officers have taken the last two nights to break up crowds, including tear gas and other devices. David commends the actions these officers took, saying they tried to ask people to disperse peacefully.
“It’s easy to second-guess what anyone does in these situations, but I invite you to look at other communities and how they are doing, and you ask yourself where you want to live,” he said.
David was supportive and encouraging of protests, conversations and other dialogue about the country’s unrest, as long as they all remained peaceful.
Saffo also shared a message for the group of people attending protests with an ulterior motive in mind.
“To those who are bent on violence and inciting riots and destroying property, I say this is not your place,” Saffo said.”
He says the curfew will remain in effect each night until he announces otherwise.