Palo Alto City Manager Ed Shikada on Thursday lifted the curfew that the city imposed on Tuesday, which prohibited residents from being in public spaces between 8:30 p.m. at 5 a.m., and which the city had initially planned to keep in place until June 11.
The curfew, which Shikada announced on Tuesday afternoon, was implemented as a way to protect businesses in commercial areas from potential damage stemming from recent protests. But after major backlash from residents and civil rights organizations, as well as the apparent de-escalation of conditions that had led to the curfew in the first place, city officials agreed on Thursday morning to end it immediately.
Shikada told this news organization that the police had not made any arrests related to residents violating the curfew, which he said was imposed to ensure public safety. The decision to institute the curfew was driven by incidents around Stanford Shopping Center, where police reportedly observed between 50 and 100 cars circling the mall on Sunday.
The city was one of many jurisdictions around the Bay Area that had instituted curfews this week relating to protests demanding racial equality and justice after the May 25 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. But while other cities and counties limited its curfews to a few days (the San Mateo County curfew expired Thursday morning after two nights) or left their curfew orders open-ended (San Francisco ordered a new curfew for a few days until Wednesday night, when it announced that curfews would be lifted Thursday), Palo Alto's was an outlier because of its duration.
"We thought it would be better to place an end date and be conservatively long and not have to extend it," Shikada said. "Certainly, the public reaction was the opposite."
"In hindsight, it was not the right decision."
The imposition of the curfew attracted a quick backlash from civil rights advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union, which requested in a June 3 letter that Shikada immediately rescind it. Mayor Adrian Fine and Vice Mayor Tom DuBois had also expressed concern about the long duration, with DuBois saying he would like the council to schedule a special meeting to modify the curfew order.
Others questioned Shikada's power to declare the curfew, pointing to the fact that the city's "state of emergency" declaration was based on the COVID-19 pandemic and not on the recent spread of protests against police violence. Shikada said the order was made after consultation with the Office of the City Attorney and that it felt like "one continuous emergency, in terms of our ability to react and deploy our resources in ways that maintain our highest priority for public safety."
"We certainly did not take the action of implementing the curfew lightly," Shikada said. "It was certainly a difficult decision for us."
While Shikada said that he had consulted the council about his decisions, in the case of the curfew the consultation was "not sufficient."
"I will not claim to have taken every step perfectly," Shikada said. "At the same time, I believe our team has really acted with the full and complete best interest of the Palo Alto community at every step along the way and will continue to do so."
He also said that he and Police Chief Robert Jonsen had both determined that the conditions that had warranted the curfew no longer apply.
"We're both comfortable that the events have gone in the right direction and we are not having further incidents or concerns that justified the original establishment (of the curfew)," he said.