TAMPA, Fla. - The Hillsborough Emergency Policy Group has unanimously voted to rescind the county's overnight curfew, but leaving the around-the-clock safer-at-home order in place.
The curfew, which was in effect nightly from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., had been enacted Monday after authorities received over 200 complaints about residents not following safer-at-home orders. However, some members of the EPG said during Thursday's meeting that they felt they had acted too hastily by putting the curfew into effect.
Sheriff Chad Chronister said he now felt the curfew created a confusing conflict with the state's stay-at-home order.
“This group did move too fast and simply did not communicate well about limiting interactions during those overnight hours,” the sheriff said. “While I voted for that curfew and will always err on the side of caution when it comes to protecting our community, after speaking with all of our chiefs of police and studying the calls for service, the data shows that we clearly should not continue the curfew.”
Meanwhile, a local attorney had announced plans to file a lawsuit over the curfew, claiming is was unconstitutional.
When it became clear that a vote to rescind the curfew would pass, EPG chair Les Miller – who passionately proposed the idea on Monday – took a moment to explain that his goal was to prevent the kind of deaths that communities like Seattle and New York have seen.
“I did not want to see that happen in our county. I’m not running again; it’s not for political reasons. I wanted to make sure Hillsborough County did not have widespread COVID-19,” he offered.
Since then, Miller said, he’d received 600 emails from people opposed to the curfew. The longtime politician nearly broke down in tears as he explained that some of those messages had included racial insults.
“That’s all I was doing, was trying save lives. I don’t care what color you are, how much money you have, what sexual orientation you may have. I’ve been called some dirty names since I did that. The most difficult one was the n-word. And a Nazi,” he sighed before calling for the vote.
The vote ended up being 8 to 0 in favor of rescinding the curfew.
Miller said that even though the curfew was being rescinded, he wanted to call on law enforcement officers to keep enforcing social distancing measures.
At the request of Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, the group also took up discussion of making face-coverings mandatory for county residents while in public. Technical issues interrupted the meeting ahead of a vote, but Castor did not appear to have the votes to approve a mask motion and the motion died for lack of support when the meeting resumed..
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