April 12, 2001

Violent demonstrations in Cincinnati

CINCINNATI, Ohio -- City officials declared a state of emergency Thursday and imposed a citywide curfew as the city entered a fourth day of protest violence.

"I appear before you this morning with a very heavy and sad heart," Mayor Charles Luken told a news conference, "because despite the best efforts of people of good will in our city, violence on our streets is uncontrolled and it runs rampant."

Thursday was the fourth day of protests that began after a fatal police shooting Saturday of an unarmed African-American man.

Timothy Thomas, 19, was killed as he fled Officer Steven Roach, who was trying to arrest him for failing to appear for misdemeanor charges and traffic violations. Roach's union said he feared for his life during the encounter.

Thomas was the fifth black man killed by police since September. The FBI opened a preliminary civil-rights investigation in the case Tuesday after talking with the chief of police, said FBI spokesman Ed Boldt. Similar probes are pending on two other cases, he said.

Tensions between blacks and police in Cincinnati, a city of 330,000, have heightened over the past few years. Since 1995, 15 black men died at the hands of police, according to The Associated Press.

Anger spills over at news conference The state-of-emergency announcement was made after a Cincinnati police officer was shot Wednesday night. Luken said it appeared the officer's belt buckle took the brunt of the shot. No arrest has been made in that shooting.

Police block a street in Cincinnati on Tuesday where people roamed the area breaking windows in a protest over the police shooting of an unarmed black man. Small groups of vandals roamed several neighborhoods Wednesday night and early Thursday, breaking windows, looting stores and assaulting at least one white motorist who was dragged from her car, police said. Others in the neighborhood came to the woman's aid.

"I think the black citizens are tired and scared, I think the white citizens are tired and scared," Luken said. "There's gunfire going on here like you might hear in Beirut. It's dangerous and it's getting more dangerous."

Luken's news conference was interrupted several times by shouts from citizens apparently angry about police brutality.

"Why don't we talk about stopping police brutality?" yelled one man. "The only way police brutality is going to stop is if the police go to jail, or if the police go to hell!"

"The mayor is a liar!" yelled another man.

In response, Luken said, "This is the kind of lack of civility that is plaguing our community."

Pray for the city, mayor asks Luken said the curfew, imposed by City Manager John Shirey, would run indefinitely from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Acknowledging it would impact the schedules of some religious services during the Easter weekend, the mayor said he hoped those citizens would stay at home instead and pray for the city, "which is very much at risk right now."

Timothy Thomas was fatally shot Saturday, April 7, as he ran from a police officer trying to arrest him on 14 warrants City officials were holding a meeting with the Ohio National Guard to determine whether to ask for their assistance.

More than 1,000 police officers were working 12-hour shifts, Luken said, adding, "That situation cannot go on much longer."

Luken said he had no damage figure yet from the four days of violence.

The AP reported that at least 66 people have been arrested on such charges as disorderly conduct, criminal rioting, obstruction, felony assault, theft and breaking and entering since the violence began Monday.

It was not immediately clear how the curfew would affect a planned nighttime town meeting called by Kweisi Mfume, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, according to The Associated Press. He had planned to lead the meeting Thursday night at a church near downtown.

www.cnn.com / www.enquirer.com

Previous Page

^^ Back to top