CINCINNATI – Black activists and religious leaders have called for an international boycott on downtown businesses because they say the city has not progressed on racial issues since the April riots sparked by the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man.
The Cincinnati Black United Front, along with several other groups, on Saturday said they would ask tourists not to visit Cincinnati, tell organizations to hold their national conventions elsewhere, and ask residents not to spend money downtown.
"We call for an immediate and total withdrawal of travel and tourism business from Cincinnati," said Juleana Frierson, spokeswoman for the Cincinnati Black United Front.
She said economic sanctions have been the most effective nonviolent method to achieve social and economic change. Frierson and several other speakers said they believed they had no other options.
"We will no longer tolerate Cincinnati apartheid," she told about 80 people gathered outside New Prospect Baptist Church for the boycott announcement.
Frierson said the Cincinnati Black United Front has obtained a list of groups that have conventions in Cincinnati through 2003 and will ask them to relocate.
She also read a list of demands Saturday that include funding for neighborhood development plans, amnesty for those jailed during the April riots, and the elimination of racial profiling in the city's police department.
"Maybe they will listen to the pocketbook if not to us," said the Rev. Stephen Scott of the Coalition for Equality and Justice. "
Cecil Thomas, executive director for the city's human relations commission, attended the boycott announcement. He said he hopes the black leaders urging the boycott can resolve the situation by working with Cincinnati Community Action Now, the organization Mayor Charlie Luken formed after the April riots.
The group is spearheading efforts to improve racial disparities between blacks and whites in such areas as education, economic advancement and police relations.
Several of the black leaders said Saturday they do not think Cincinnati CAN has been effective.
"Cincinnati CAN has shown it cannot work," said Frierson.
Paul Bernish, a Cincinnati CAN spokesman, said that judgment is premature.
He said the group has taken action by bringing people together to grapple with the issues that led to the riots.
"Those issues didn't arise overnight and won't be resolved overnight," he said.
He said judgments about Cincinnati CAN's effectiveness should be withheld until the community has a chance to see what actions and reforms are produced.
A message seeking comment from Luken was left at his office Saturday.