Cincinnati Activists March to Protest Police Treatment of Blacks
CINCINNATI – More than 2,000 people marched Saturday to peacefully protest economic conditions and police treatment of blacks in this city where rioting broke out in April after an unarmed black man was shot by a white police officer.
"It's important that we at least say in a peaceful way that we're tired. Cincinnati can't be the city it wants to be if it keeps a foot on the necks of blacks," said Henderson Kirkland, 62, an organizer of the March for Justice.
The protesters traveled through the neighborhood where 19-year-old Timothy Thomas was shot on April 7. His death sparked three nights of rioting in Over-the-Rhine, a predominantly black, poor area of the city.
As rainy skies cleared Saturday, Thomas' mother, Angela Leisure, led the procession that stretched five city blocks. People of all races joined in the demonstration, chanting, "No justice, no peace, no racist police."
"I pray my son will be the last one to die. But I don't think he will be," Leisure said. "They have not made any changes to ensure that this won't happen again."
Police on horseback and some wearing riot gear blocked off streets to traffic and stood silently as the crowd shouted derogatory comments at them.
After the demonstration, about 50 people marched through a residential and entertainment neighborhood east of downtown. The group didn't have a parade permit and eight people were arrested for blocking traffic, police said.
Before the demonstrations, about 100 volunteers walked through the crowd, passing out fliers and posters and urging a nonviolent protest.
People huddled under umbrellas as they observed a drum and dance troupe and heard local clergy talk about the need for justice and change in the city.
Shirley Cure, 54, attended with her two granddaughters. DoVae Thomas, 6, and Dominique Thomas, 5, no relation to Timothy Thomas, carried signs as big as they were and clapped their hands along with the crowd.
"I hope this will maybe be something that's instilled in them -- that you don't go out and fight, you work for progress peacefully," Cure said.
Among the marchers were six black men who demonstrated during the civil rights era. "This is the old guard," Reggie Boyd, 51, said with a laugh.
Boyd recalled how they had marched through Cincinnati in the 1960s and 1970s, urging economic change, including increased employment opportunities and revitalization of the city's black neighborhoods.
"The city didn't do anything then, so we don't expect they'll listen to us now. The same problems exist here now. Nothing's changed," Boyd said.
Thomas' death touched off the city's worst racial violence since the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination in Memphis, Tenn., in 1968, and prompted a citywide dusk to dawn curfew to restore order. Dozens of people were injured and more than 800 were arrested.
Police said Thomas was wanted on traffic violations and charges of fleeing police. Officer Stephen Roach, 27, told his union that he shot Thomas because he felt threatened.
Roach faces trial later this year on misdemeanor charges of negligent homicide and obstructing official business.