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Immigration coalition, civil rights groups threaten to sue de Blasio over 'unconstitutional' curfew

The New York Immigration Coalition is threatening to sue Mayor Bill de Blasio over the “unconstitutional” curfew he mandated to quell uprisings at protests across the city this week.

In a letter to de Blasio, the coalition said the 8 p.m. curfew, which was instituted by a mayoral executive order, has led to the unwarranted arrest of peaceful demonstrators.

“We respect the city’s legitimate need to enact reasonable, targeted measures to ensure public safety, but the week-long, city-wide curfew unconstitutionally restricts individuals’ rights to free speech, assembly, and free movement,” the organization wrote in the letter, a copy of which was provided to POLITICO. “This overbroad lockdown has resulted in the unconstitutional arrest of numerous individuals for engaging in peaceful protests or merely going about their lives as free, law-abiding people.”

The group notes a lawsuit filed over similar concerns in Southern California led Los Angeles to lift its curfew.

The letter states that police have arrested protesters just minutes after 8 p.m., without evidence of assaults, vandalism or looting — the problems that led de Blasio to institute the restriction in the first place.

It calls for de Blasio to lift the curfew right away and warns that “absent such immediate action, we will be forced to undertake legal actions to protect the constitutional rights of our members and our community.”

The effort has the support of VOCAL-NY and New York Communities for Change, two nonprofits that advocate for a host of public policy issues. Other lawsuits are expected to be filed over the curfew in the coming days, several sources familiar with the efforts told POLITICO.

The warning shot was sent to the mayor’s corporation counsel Friday evening. A de Blasio spokesperson did not provide immediate comment.

De Blasio issued the executive order June 1, in response to the perceived dangers of demonstrations during the shelter-in-place conditions that have been in place since March to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

In his order, the mayor said peaceful protests that followed the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minneapolis, escalated “to include actions of assault, vandalism, property damage and/or looting.”

The order noted the city is still subject to the Covid-19-related quarantine, and said “the violent acts have been happening primarily during the hours of darkness, and it is especially difficult to preserve public safety during such hours.”

The curfew is set to end at 5 a.m. Monday morning.

Meanwhile videos of police officers arresting protesters who stayed out past the curfew, as well as workers deemed essential during the pandemic, have gone viral, leading to a mounting push back from many of the mayor’s former supporters, aides and allies.

For instance Neal Kwatra, a Democratic consultant who helped organize the push back and is covering some of the legal costs, has advised de Blasio at times throughout the years.

“A lot of us got really sick and tired of watching those shocking images night after night, and then see our mayor have the audacity to rationalize and defend their behavior and gaslight us all,” said Kwatra, of Metropolitan Public Strategies.

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