In response to a lawsuit, Ville Platte officials agreed Thursday to temporarily suspend enforcement of the city’s “walking curfew” ordinance until the City Council meets Tuesday to decide the ordinance’s fate, an official said Thursday.
The decision comes one day after the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana filed a federal lawsuit in Lafayette alleging the curfew violates the First Amendment and disproportionately affects lower-income residents.
The ordinance has been in place since February and makes it illegal to travel by foot between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. from Sunday through Thursday, and from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. on any Friday or Saturday night.
Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, has said the curfew punishes people for relying on their feet rather than a car for transportation and makes criminals out of residents who simply want to walk their dog or visit a nearby neighbor or store.
Violators face up to a $200 fine and/or 30 days in jail.
“This is a preliminary victory for the people of Ville Platte,” ACLU staff attorney Justin Harrison said in a news release. “We hope that on Tuesday the city will permanently restore its residents’ freedom to walk the streets of their community.”
The curfew has been renewed three times, each time on a 60-day basis, and is scheduled to end Tuesday.
William L. Goode, a Lafayette attorney who is serving as the cooperating attorney for the ACLU in the suit, said if the city votes to re-impose the curfew, “we will file our motion for a temporary restraining order.”
Mayor Jennifer Vidrine said the city will not issue any more curfew violations until the council discusses the ordinance Tuesday night.
“In light of the lawsuit, I’d rather not comment any further,” Vidrine said Thursday.
Police Chief Neal Lartigue said Wednesday he supported the ordinance, which was enacted in an effort to combat a spike in crime at the beginning of the year, council members said at the time.
The suit was filed on behalf of Arthur Sampson, a Ville Platte resident and president of the Evangeline Parish NAACP.