This speech delivered on November 4, 1999 at the second Washington, DC curfew protest.
Good evening, I am Alex Koroknay-Palicz treasurer for Youth Against Curfew and am a director for NYRA. This is a difficult time for the youth of this city, crime endangers our lives, proven by the terrible shootings this weekend. The city knows that something must be done to solve crime and protect the safety of its citizens, and for that reason the city thought it prudent to create a youth curfew following the presumption that crime will decrease if young people are forced to stay in their homes during certain hours of the day. Well lets examine that reasoning… if people under 17 are forced to stay in their homes during certain hours then there is less likelihood of them being out committing crime, but why stop there? If youth crime goes down then what will we do about adult crime? What about the deadly shooting in Seattle recently by a man in his 30’s what are we going to do to protect ourselves from these criminals, well how about we force ALL people to stay in their homes during the night. Or better yet how about all day long, I’m certain this city and this country would be a very safe place to live if every single person was not allowed to leave their homes.
But then that wouldn’t be America would it? That would not be a free country, and as long as any segment of our population is under house arrest for crimes that they did not commit this is not a free nation. Our fore fathers fought a war for our freedoms, for our freedom to live our lives as we choose. This curfew does not allow us to live our lives as we choose. This curfew mocks the American legal principal of innocent until proven guilty, by treating young people as criminals just for being who they are. This is not freedom but oppression; this is not equality but discrimination.
Benjamin Franklin once said that “Those that would give up essential liberty for a little safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” And this is what is being done here today, except that instead of giving up essential liberty for a little safety we are giving up our essential liberty of an illusion of safety. Since curfews do little if anything to stop crime.
The revolutionary war was fought for the freedom of this country and it is time that we the young people of the world and of America fight another war for OUR freedom, not a war with guns, not war with violence but a war with words and ideas. Our very lives and our liberty are at stake here, and we should use all peaceful means at our disposal to win back our freedom.
These protests are just a first step in this process; next steps include writing letters to the mayor, the media and the city council. I want everyone here to write Mayor Williams and tell him exactly how you feel about this curfew. Write letters to newspapers and tell them what you think. And certainly call and write the city council.