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West Chester Police Chief Joel Herzog lets protesters break newly-imposed curfew

Calls peaceful protest 'OK in West Chester'
Posted at 6:21 PM, Jun 02, 2020

West Chester Township released new information about its curfew Wednesday after this story was published. Read it on the township website or at the bottom of this story.

Calling peaceful protest "OK in West Chester," Police Chief Joel Herzog let a group break the township’s hastily imposed curfew Tuesday night as protests spread from Cincinnati to the suburbs for the first time.

Moments after trustees passed a 30-day, 10 p.m. curfew in an emergency session, Herzog spoke to reporters as people gathered at The Square at Union Centre and said he wasn’t interested in arresting anyone there as long as they acted peacefully.

The chief even said he would stay with them past 10 p.m. And he was true to his word.

Some 50 to 75 people were still milling about at 10 p.m., and no one was arrested. Everyone left by 10:30.

Earlier, protesters cheered West Chester officers who took a knee in solidarity with the crowd.

The crowd was a mix of races and ages – even families with small children. The event included prayers, speeches, conversations between strangers and moments of silence.

It was just what Herzog had hoped.

“This demonstration, protest, whatever you want to call it, is absolutely OK in West Chester,” Herzog said. “This is positive. This is how change happens - open dialogue, discussion. There's some passion going on. There's some prayer going on. That's where change happens."

Protest also spread to the municipal building in Madeira, where about 200 people knelt for 8 minutes, 40 seconds - roughly the time a Minneapolis police officer knelt on George Floyd's throat, killing him and sparking protests nationwide.

Madeira protesters gather for 8 minutes 40 seconds of silence

Going forward, Herzog said his department wants to be tolerant and will treat curfew violators like speeders, meaning police are not going to stop every person out past 10 p.m. But they will take outliers into custody if they feel they have to.

RELATED: Man waving 'Thin Blue Line' flag punched during protest in Cincinnati.

Herzog was clearly impacted by watching the video of Floyd's killing.

"I can say I was absolutely disgusted with what I saw,” Herzog said. “There was total disregard for human life, and the fact the intervention did not happen by other officers on the scene was incredible. It was sickening for me to watch.”

When street violence followed, Cincinnati imposed a city-wide, 8 p.m. curfew and a few other communities followed suit. But no curfews had been declared in West Chester, 22 miles north of Downtown on Interstate 75, or in Madeira, 12 miles north on I-71.

The Tuesday protest appeared to catch West Chester trustees by surprise and sent them into emergency session over the phone. In a statement, the township said the 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew can be shortened from 30 days if trustees permit the administrator to do so. Violators will be given a warning and could be cited for trespassing or disorderly conduct.

PHOTOS: Fifth day of Cincinnati-area protests against racism.

The township posted the following new information about the curfew Wednesday:

In an emergency meeting June 2, 2020, the West Chester Board of Trustees approved a resolution giving authority to the Township Administrator to set a temporary Township-wide curfew.

The Resolution was not intended to negatively influence peaceful protests. In addition, the resolution is not intended to close Township businesses or stop normal daily activity.

Instead, a curfew will only be implemented when it becomes apparent that a protest, demonstration, parade, or other public gathering occurring in the Township presents a hazard or danger to people or property.

The Township Administrator can determine on a daily basis whether a curfew should be implemented or not.

The default status for the Township is that NO curfew is in effect.

However, if the Township Administrator, along with the Chief of Police and the Board of Trustees, determines that a curfew is necessary to protect the Township’s visitors, residents and businesses, a temporary Township-wide curfew can be implemented.

The following individuals are exempted by any curfew imposed by the resolution: law enforcement, fire and medical personnel, and other public employees engaged in their official duties; members of the news media; individuals travelling directly to and from work, religious activities, educational activities or civic/charitable activities; and individuals seeking emergency or medical care for themselves or others.

If a decision is made that a curfew will be implemented, an announcement will be made indicating the specific time the curfew is in effect. The announcement of the curfew will appear on all of the Township’s official media platforms, including website and social media accounts; and will be shared with local news outlets.

The West Chester Township Board of Trustees supports peaceful demonstration and expression of all points of view and welcomes these voices to our community. The Township, however, will not support large gatherings that promote or encourage lawless, dangerous, or destructive behavior.

Curfew StatusPer the Administrative Order issued for today, June 3, a temporary Township-wide curfew shall be in effect beginning on June 3, 2020 at 10 p.m. to June 4, 2020 at 6 a.m.