Columbia, S.C. Mayor Steve Benjamin has enacted a curfew law that has some Columbia residents concerned.
he curfew is hurting local business owners such as, Joyce Brewer, 59, of Columbia who owns a small convenience store near Prisma Richland Hospital. She says the curfew is hurting her business, the hospital employees who work late hours, and those who go to the hospital’s emergency room, and other patrons in the area that are paying customers who may visit her business late at night can’t do so.
On Wednesday, March 19th, 2020, The City of Columbia issued a curfew for residents. This curfew stated that due to President Trump issuing a State of Emergency and Governor McMaster’s issuing a State of Emergency Mayor of Columbia Stephen Benjamin and City Council took it upon themselves to issue a city-wide curfew for the hours of 11 pm and 6 pm stating it was for the aid in preventing the spread of the Corona virus. This was proceeded by Governor McMaster’s issue of urging the limiting of public gathering to 100 people or less and closing in-house dining for many restaurants.
“I’ve only been open for 2 weeks. I don’t like it (the curfew) because I’m a small business and it hurts me,” Brewer told our reporter. Brewer’s husband, Shawn Davis, 49, says that the curfew will impact the couple’s business financially. “I kinda get why they did it but this is our livelihood.”
Governor McMaster’s issue of Executive Order 2020-03-15 does not demand or order the following of his directive but requests this of groups and restaurants, leaving it at their discretion. Since then several retailers, restaurants, and churches have chosen to close their doors or make other arrangements for their patrons. The mainstream media has inaccurately reported that Governor McMaster has ordered this.
Mayor Stephen Benjamin and the City Council of Columbia has taken it a step further and began by infringing on people’s rights with no cause cited, except the fact that a State of Emergency exists. At no point has the CDC stated a curfew was needed or should be issued! Mayor Benjamin in the past several months has come under scrutiny for his wanting to denounce the 2nd Amendment Rights of the people of Columbia by removing their right to possess a firearm.
It seems that Mayor Benjamin does not consider the U.S. Constitution prior to making some of his decisions. The last time a curfew was issued for Columbia was in 2015 after the flooding of major parts of the city. The difference here is that the virus does not simply limit it’s movement between 11 pm and 6 am. Columbia Ordinance 2020-031 violates the 5th Amendment right to travel. “The right to travel is a part of the liberty of which the citizen cannot be deprived without due process of law under the Fifth Amendment.” The right to travel, to go from place to place as the means of transportation permit, is a natural right subject to the rights of others and to reasonable regulation under law. In this case, the law is whatever Mayor Benjamin wants it to mean.
There are only 4 confirmed cases of the virus in Columbia, South Carolina. Mayor Benjamin is quoted as to saying “If we don’t see social distancing norms become more real, we’re going to have a real issue going forward.” From this statement, one can believe that Mayor Benjamin would like people to distance themselves from each other. Also, it has been suggested that Mayor Benjamin is using this opportunity of deflecting current political issues that could affect his potential for re-election.
Our reporter asked multiple Columbia residents what they thought about the curfew.
“You make sure you tell Steve Benjamin that I’m a grown man and I ain’t got a curfew,” says James Deaver, 55.
“They need to give the homeless a place to go. Where do they go? What do they do? They’d have to keep moving and moving. Homelessness doesn’t have a curfew,” says Kela Searcy, 45.
Some Columbia residents expressed concerns about constitutional violations such as Dean Del Toro, 35, of Columbia. “It’s a little tyrannical. While it may make sense, but we do have a Constitution,” Del Toro told our reporter.
Willy Jackson, 39, of Columbia, works at Columbia Farms. He told our reporter that he and co-workers were discussing the curfew. “I don’t see the difference it’ll make. We were just talking about it at work and everyone at work didn’t see the point,” he said.
As it is important for people to take precautions concerning this virus, is the need for a curfew truly necessary? The many people we spoke with on the streets of Columbia were against the curfew.