Home>775Times>Nevada Governor Signs Bill Silencing Controversial Siren Tied to Racist History

Nevada Governor Signs Bill Silencing Controversial Siren Tied to Racist History

By TheNevadaGlobeStaff, June 10, 2023 11:19 am

NEVADA – In a significant move toward social justice and reconciliation, Nevada Governor Lombardo signed Senate Bill 391 into law, effectively silencing a controversial siren with deep-rooted connections to a racist past. The legislation prohibits Nevada counties, cities, and unincorporated towns from using sirens, bells, or alarms for purposes that many perceive as racially discriminatory.

One prominent example of this is the town of Minden, where a siren has long been associated with its history as a “sundown town.” The siren served as a chilling reminder of a time when non-White individuals were required to leave Minden and its neighboring Gardnerville by the end of each day, under the threat of severe consequences. A county ordinance dating back to 1917 mandated that Native Americans must be outside the town’s limits by 6:30 p.m.

The signing of SB391 marks a pivotal moment for Patrick Burtt, Vice-Chairman of the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California and Chairman of the Dresslerville Community Council, who expressed gratitude toward Senator Dallas Harris and Assemblyman Howard Watts for spearheading the legislative efforts to silence the Minden siren. Burtt emphasized the significance of SB391 as a symbol of progress, highlighting the historical burden imposed on Washoe people in Minden and Gardnerville.

While some Minden residents argue that the siren was intended as a tribute to the volunteer fire department and first responders, Native American communities view it as a distressing reminder of a traumatic past. For over a century, the siren has sounded daily at noon and 5 p.m., evoking painful memories for those affected by systemic racism.

This is not the first attempt to ban the siren. Last year, Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak signed Assembly Bill 88, which aimed to eliminate sundown sirens throughout Nevada. However, shortly after its passage, the town of Minden reached an agreement to shift the siren’s timing from 6 to 5 p.m., generating further controversy.

Chairman Burtt lamented the town’s failure to comply with the initial legislation but expressed hope that the newly enacted law would bring an end to the situation. Under the provisions of the law, Nevada counties, cities, and unincorporated towns are strictly prohibited from sounding sirens, bells, or alarms except for emergency alerts, occasional testing, or official holiday celebrations.

Violating the law could result in hefty fines, with counties facing penalties of up to $50,000 for each violation. Consequently, the town of Minden would be liable for $100,000 per day due to the siren’s two scheduled sounding times.

This legislation represents a significant step forward in rectifying past injustices and promoting a more inclusive and equitable future. It underscores Nevada’s commitment to addressing systemic racism and the ongoing struggle for social change.

Credits: KUNR

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