Opponents to Councilmember Noel Gallo’s proposal for a youth curfew posted fliers have posted fliers such as this one in Oakland’s Fruitvale
Opponents to Councilmember Noel Gallo's proposal for a youth curfew posted fliers have posted fliers such as this one in Oakland's Fruitvale District that include a photo of Gallo with a backward swastika digitally emblazoned on his forehead. (Matthew Artz/Bay Area News Group)

OAKLAND -- On the same day Noel Gallo became the latest Oakland council member to formally propose a youth curfew, opponents lashed out at him in the most incendiary possible manner.

Glued to lampposts, utility poles and benches Thursday in Gallo's native Fruitvale district were posters of the councilman's face with a swastika digitally emblazoned on his forehead. The posters read: "Stop Gallo. Stop the Curfew."

Gallo, who has gotten his fair share of grief during the 20 years he previously served on the school board, expressed no outrage upon being shown the posters. "They can paint horns on me, swastikas, whatever," he said Friday. "I'm not intimidated by it. I'm not offended by it."

The posters, which also were visible on 23rd Avenue and along International Boulevard, listed no contact information. No person or group has taken responsibility for them.

Gallo is proposing a law that with limited exceptions would prohibit anyone under 18 from being out in public between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. unless accompanied by an adult.

The proposal, whose goal is to protect children from the city's often dangerous streets, is similar to failed curfew initiatives rejected by the council in 2009 and 2011.

Council members interviewed this week didn't expect Gallo's measure to fare any better when the Public Safety Committee takes it up on Nov. 12. Four of Oakland's eight council members have long ago publicly stated their opposition to nighttime youth curfews and there seemed little appetite to revisit the issue.

The police department, whose support could potentially help Gallo sway his colleagues, also has been ambivalent.

Last year, then-Chief Howard Jordan came out in support of a curfew plan that would have included a strong social services component for children picked up off the street.

But one month later, in September, the police department surprised council members by issuing a report warning that a curfew was doomed to fail because Oakland didn't have enough police officers to regularly enforce it or money to pay for the resource centers for minors picked up late at night.

At the time, police leaders said privately that the department supported curfews but was waiting to see if the 2012 elections produced a council more amenable to them.

It did not.

In addition to Gallo, voters elected Council Members Dan Kalb and Lynette Gibson McElhaney -- both unambiguous curfew opponents on the campaign trail.

Kalb said Thursday that he still opposed nighttime curfews, but was open to exploring another facet of Gallo's plan -- a school-hour curfew -- as part of an anti-truancy program.

Gibson McElhaney noted that none of the police consultants brought in this year to help Oakland formulate its crime-fighting plans suggested a curfew. "I think it could be distracting," she said of the upcoming curfew debate.

Several curfew opponents simply don't think it will do much good; others fear it would force teenagers to return to violent homes or complicate the police department's efforts to finally comply with court-ordered reforms.

Police critics argue that a curfew is merely a more politically palatable form of stop-and-frisk -- the controversial tactic that provides police more latitude in stopping and questioning potential suspects.

A second poster that accompanied those bearing Gallo's face warned that the curfews would empower police "to harass, ticket and jail many more children and teenagers," and make the streets "unsafe for youth."

The swastika posters are indicative of Oakland's declining civility when dealing with public safety measures. Last year, a council committee had to cut short a debate on banning hammers and other "tools of violence" at protests when opponents cursed at council members and physically threatened a speaker who supported the proposal. The council ultimately passed the law this year, at Gallo's behest.

Gallo said he doesn't mind taking stands and pushing debates on sensitive subjects. "That's part of being in a leadership role," he said. "You go on Twitter. I'm a target of everyone."

When it comes to the curfew, Gallo said his goal isn't to lock up kids, but to get them off the streets so they don't become victims.

As an example, he offered himself. When Gallo was growing up in Oakland, officers acting under a prior curfew policy picked him up after 10 p.m. and kept him on the straight and narrow. "By the second time my mom gave me an attitude adjustment, and I didn't do it anymore."

Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.