Jim Phillips AUSTIN AMERICANSTATESMAN
DATE: August 6, 1993
PUBLICATION: Austin AmericanStatesman
The City of Taylor discriminated against minorities in the enforcement of a curfew that was declared unconstitutional, a federal jury ruled Thursday. The jury found that two of three plaintiffs were discriminated against by police “by reason of race.” The plaintiffs are black.
Elizabeth Stinson, a 42 year old Austin woman who was arrested under the curfew and brought the lawsuit, said, “I had the feeling that I had been violated, and to have the court justify that, I’m pleased with the result.”
The curfew banned use of public property such as city sidewalks and streets after 11 p.m. City and community leaders indicated after the verdict that the enforcement
of the curfew ordinance against minorities was an unfortunate chapter that they wanted to leave in the past.
Bobby Taylor of Austin, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said, “This proves the city fathers and city government and city police were discriminating. I hope and
pray they will stop the discrimination in other areas. Now people are going to stand up and demand what they’re entitled to.
“None of these people were in it for the money,” Taylor said.”They wanted to show they have rights.” Taylor had argued that the city selectively enforced the curfew against
blacks who frequented a strip of nightclubs known as “the line.” An officer testified that police routinely “cleared the line” late at night. Of 79 people cited under the ordinance in 1991 and 1992, 77 were black or Hispanic. Minorities make up about 45 percent of the city’s population of about 11,000.
The Taylor City Commission repealed the curfew after the lawsuit was filed in September 1992. The commission argued that police did not discriminate but simply enforced the curfew in areas where they had a crime problem. The jury awarded Stinson $12,500, including $10,000 for being arrested under a law that the judge ruled was unconstitutional. The remaining $2,500 was awarded by the jury for the discriminatory acts of the city. The other plaintiff found to have suffered from discrimination,
Randall Massey of Taylor, received $1,000. Massey received a citation for violating the curfew. His mother, Elizabeth Massey, was the third plaintiff and said she was told several times by police to “move along.” The jury ruled that she had not been discriminated against.
Cathy Kyle, the attorney representing the city, said she was pleased the jury awarded only about half the money the plaintiffs had asked for but said she was disappointed with the decision that the city discriminated against the plaintiffs. Kyle also represents the city’s insurance carrier. Taylor, who will receive attorney’s fees from the city at a later date, said the plaintiffs “were the first people in the city of Taylor to stand up and say `enough.’ Everybody in Taylor, black and white, knows there is discrimination.
This put it in the limelight and made everybody look at it and talk about it. “What I hope will come out of it is other government entities will take a look at their own practices before they have a lawsuit,” he said.
Stinson said minorities in Taylor have felt some relief since the curfew was repealed, “knowing they can go more freely without being stopped,” but both she and Taylor said discrimination remains. Harold Taylor, pastor of the predominately black.