West Chester police chief, trustees explain reasoning for maintaining 30-day curfew

West Chester Twp. trustees took a lengthy look at how the protest rally last week was handled and decided to keep the 30-day emergency curfew intact so they don’t have to “scramble around” if protesters return.

The township became the latest area community to consider a curfew when a crowd gathered last week for an organized event. Trustees instituted the curfew while the event was happening, and protesters were peaceful for about four hours.

City officials in Hamilton, Middletown and Oxford said their communities never considered curfews. There have been multiple rallies in those locations. Other jurisdictions did not respond.

West Chester police Chief Joel Herzog said the curfew never had to be enforced on June 2, when about 200 people flooded the clock tower square and he doesn’t expect to need it now, but it is prudent to keep it in place.

“We have to see what tonight holds, what tomorrow holds, we don’t know, what if all of a sudden it’s like, ‘Hey let’s go back to West Chester but this time let’s tear it up, let’s show ‘em we mean business,’” Herzog said. “I would hate to have to then scramble again, that’s almost exactly what it was like scrambling. When you have a protest coming or a political rally we know weeks, ahead, days ahead, we knew an hour-and-a-half ahead.”

The trustees swiftly called an emergency session when they learned protesters from Cincinnati were expected to join a protest at the West Chester Clock Tower to honor George Floyd,.

The curfew is from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m and is in place for 30 days. However the township can amend it on a daily basis as necessary. It does not pertain to West Chester businesses or private citizens.

“Think of it this way, it’s a light switch and the default position of this switch for a curfew is off, only with watchfulness, with risk assessment do we need to turn it on and if we do the very next day we look at it,” Trustee Mark Welch said adding. ”It’s only where people would naturally congregate that you would need something like this, I wouldn’t think there’d be roving bands of rioters going throughout West Chester.”

Jesse Grabert, a West Chester resident and mother of five, planned what she expected to be a small gathering for community support. She said she believes she was put here to be a “servant” and to promote peace and justice and is trying to teach her kids the same.

Protesters in Cincinnati traveled to the township, and some told reporters while in Cincinnati that West Chester’s lack of curfew played a role in their decision. Herzog said police looked into reports about the Cincinnati protesters as the situation evolved.

“If we get information on social media, which a lot of times gets shared with us, to a news channel that reports something, our intelligence officer has to take the time to track that down because many times it’s the fourth person that’s relaying it to us,” Herzog said. “We have to track that down and next thing you know, honestly in one case a little old lady had heard something from her landscaper.”

RELATED: West Chester officials explain curfew set while protest happened Tuesday

Trustee Lee Wong said he has received a number of texts and messages from residents who were angry about the curfew.

“We have intelligence coming that they are coming our way with agitators, instigators, people came here with gallons of milk it’s certainly not to drink in the middle of the square. You walk around with a gallon of milk you know what that’s for,” said Wong, referring to milk’s use to combat the effects of pepper spray. “I think it was very mature to pass that emergency resolution in case something bad happened.”

The trustees had an emergency resolution to rescind the curfew on Tuesday, it never made on the table for a vote. Trustee Board President Ann Becker was the only one who thought the curfew should be nullified.

“I disagree, I think the imminent threat is passed,” Becker said. “We could be under the state of my goodness something might happen for the rest of our lives.”

Wong said he wanted it to stay in place because things could “flare up” up again. Welch said it is not hurting anything keeping it intact.

“It’s insurance, it doesn’t affect anybody, it’s invisible, it’s transparent, you don’t even know it’s there until you need it,” he said.

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