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Following Intense Debate, Mayor London Breed Lifts San Francisco’s Controversial Curfew

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Restaurants can close at their usual time Thursday night

San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge
San Franciscans wil be allowed to leave home after 8 p.m. as of Thursday, June 4.
Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

Though protests over police brutality and racial inequality have led to significant vandalism for restaurants in other parts of California, demonstrations in the Bay Area have largely avoided them. According to law enforcement officials, swiftly enacted curfews can be credited for this lack of damage — and the police say they want those curfews to remain in place as long as possible. Others, including elected city officials, have questioned the curfews’ value and said that they are a violation of citizens’ First Amendment rights. That debate — and a few recent days of quiet protests — have apparently convinced San Francisco Mayor London Breed that the city’s curfew has run its course, as she announced Wednesday that it would be lifted as of 5 a.m. on Thursday, June 4.

The Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd prompted protests across the Bay Area this past weekend, with property destruction noted in Downtown Oakland and San Francisco’s Union Square area. In response, SF Mayor London Breed announced curfew hours of 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. for San Francisco as of last Sunday night, and said that the rule would continue “indefinitely.” Most Bay Area cities and counties followed with orders of their own (a full list of current curfew orders is below).

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott cautioned against lifting the city’s curfew, saying that it was responsible for limiting the damage that has been linked to protests. “I give my advice as a police chief to the mayor,” Scott said. “The mayor makes the decision and my advice to the mayor is as long as we see what we’ve seen in the last couple of days, I’m going to advise her to not let the curfew end.”

According to Laurie Thomas, executive director of the San Francisco restaurant lobby the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, the curfew is “definitely causing a lot of our members to close down their operations several hours early,” she says, but “we want everybody to be safe and we want the businesses to be secure and safe.”

Breed’s emergency order enacting the curfew was initially set to end on Saturday, but could be renewed. To end it before then, all 11 of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors would have had to to vote against it, Mission Local reports.

That made the lockdown the subject of much debate at Tuesday’s full meeting of the Board, which Scott also attended, again arguing for an indefinite extension of the lockdown. “It’s, frankly, an extraordinary thing in our First Amendment-based society to do this,” District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin said of the curfew. “I’m reluctant to allow this emergency to go on for a long period of time, for more than a few days.”

District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney took an even stronger stance against the curfew, saying “This is one of the more extreme and far-reaching orders that has been issued as compared to any of the other cities...It looks like ours is one of the few that is indefinite.”

“Why do we have an order that actually prohibits peaceful protests?” Haney said, noting that the curfew “makes it illegal for you to step outside of your home and stand on your sidewalk and express your mind about what’s happening in the world. You can be arrested for that under this order.”

On the other side, District 1’s Sandra Lee Fewer, whose husband is a retired SFPD officer, said that she trusted Scott’s recommendations, saying that the city needs “this tool to keep San Franciscans safe and to keep our first responders safe too.”

Though the Supes debated the curfew for about three hours, in the end, nothing was accomplished: The group agreed to table the discussion and revisit it at a meeting on Thursday, the SF Examiner reports. Now, it appears, that discussion won’t be necessary.

In a series of tweets posted on Wednesday afternoon, Breed said that the curfew “was important for the safety of our residents to ensure that we could prevent the violence and vandalism that had taken place, but we know that the overwhelming majority of people out protesting are doing so peacefully and we trust that will continue.”

In response, Haney tweeted “Thank you Mayor Breed. And thank you to the thousands of residents who voiced concerns. This is the right approach. We can support freedom of speech, peaceful protest, and protect our residents.”

As of 9 a.m. on Wednesday, June 3, here’s the current list of Bay Area curfew orders:

  • Alameda County: 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., until Friday, June 5.
  • Contra Costa County: 8 p.m- 5 a.m., indefinitely. The cities of Pittsburg and Antioch have orders that are more extensive, running from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m.
  • San Francisco County: 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., ending the morning of Thursday, June 4
  • San Mateo County: 8:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m., expired the morning of Thursday, June 4
  • Santa Clara County: No countywide order. Within the county, only Palo Alto has an active order (San Jose lifted its 8:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. until Thursday, June 11.

This article has been updated throughout.