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Cincinnati Protesters Blast Police
by John Zeh (JohnZeh [at] aol.com)
Sunday Jun 3rd, 2001 11:01 PM
CINCINNATI - Gay men and lesbians on June 2 joined some 2000 people who rallied and marched for racial justice in the wake of six Africa-American men dying while in police custody since September.
CINCINNATI - Gay men and lesbians on June 2 joined some 2000 people who rallied and marched for racial justice in the wake of six Africa-American men dying while in police custody since September.

Angry protesters participated in three linked actions to call attention to the importance of accountability by police and other city officials here. People filled Fountain Square in the city\'s center at lunchtime and marched through downtown through Over-the-Rhine, a tarnished jewel in the Queen City\'s crown.

What sparked the J2 events was the April 7 killing of an unarmed young African-American man by a city police officer enforcing 14 misdemeanors warrants the 19-year-old had outstanding. Officer Stephen Roach has been indicted on two misdemeanor counts for his killing Timothy Thomas.

Protesters carried placards, banners and homemade signs, chanted along the mid-town route, and were peaceful. Some came from Detroit, Cleveland, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. As the marchers approached Vine and 12th Street - just a couple of blocks from where Timothy Thomas was killed in an alley off Republic Street - signs were lowered, the chanting ceased and the only sound was a Hamilton County Sheriff\'s helicopter hovering overhead

They walked past demolished housing projects to join an annual tribute to a minister who fought injustice at all levels, including the ballot initiative that forbids municipal protections for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals.

At day\'s end, an embittered band of self-described anarchists performed colorful street theater to declare a \"Citizen\'s State of Emergency\" due to \"rampant racism\" in city politics. At least seven protesters were arrested.

Young blacks are not the only victims of police abuse, one participant at the kick-off rally told this reporter. Paul Groneck, a member of Stonewall Cincinnati\'s Board of Directors, (http://www.avoc.org/avocshell.html) said that police routinely targets gays. \"We\'re treated with discrimination by police the same as blacks are,\" he charged. \"They harass us when we\'re leaving gay bars. I\'ve had cops call me \'faggot.\' Cincinnati cops are out of hand. They answer to no one. They do what they want, with no accountability. We\'ve all got to stand up and fight for one another to make the justice system work.\"

After listening to rally speakers condemn racism and then joining marchers, Stonewall Cincinnati director Doreen Cudnik staffed a table in Laurel Park to help salute the memory of the Rev. Maurice McCrackin, the long-time Cincinnati social activist who died at the age of 92 in December 1997. \"It is fitting that the March for Justice ended up here at the Mac Day festival site,\" she said. \"He was such a civil disobedient in this city. It\'s incumbent on us to carry the torch for civil rights leaders like Mac, who fought against Issue 3.\"

Another activist greeting crowds at Mac Day was Barbara Levine, volunteer coordinator for AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati (AVOC), main provider of services to people living with AIDS and HIV in the city (http://www.avoc.org/avocshell.html).

\"We\'re here to support the memory of Mac, and everything he did in civil rights,\" she said. \"He was non-judgmental of all types of people, be it gender, sexual orientation, or income level - as AVOC is. The bulk of our clientele - and volunteers- are low-income, with a big mixture of black and white, gay and straight.\" She and others distributed red ribbons and brochures about the agency.

Stonewall\'s Cudnik said she is pleased that corporate officials here have finally acknowledged the impact of organizations boycotting the town because of Issue 3 (which is now Article 12 of the City Charter). Stonewall is helping lead a repeal effort now that executives and officials concede that the 2012 Olympic Games will not locate in a city with bias and discrimination embedded in its constitution. She has taken the group\'s annual fundraising gala, this year featuring entertainer Sandra Bernhard, to the Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington.

\"The business community sees that Issue 3 is having a very bad impact economically,\" she said. \"And more and more they\'re seeing that it\'s just plain wrong and it needs to be repealed.\" Stonewall is helping lead a repeal effort now that executives and officials concede that the 2012 Olympic Games will not locate in a city with bias and discrimination embedded in its constitution.

At day\'s end, some 75 militants convened in Eden Park and then climbed a hill to Mt. Adams, an upscale neighborhood overlooking the city. They formed an \"anti-authoritarian bloc\" and faced down police to protest the city\'s unequal imposition of a curfew in the poor Over-the-Rhine neighborhood while bars and restaurants were allowed to remain open in posh Mt. Adams.

\"During the curfew that City Council placed upon the city, O-T-R residents couldn\'t even put their heads out of their windows for fear that they\'d be shot, essentially, \" said R. J., an Ohio State University honors graduate this June who asked not to be identified. \"Some were arrested for standing in their own doorways. And at the same time, they were watching the news and (saw) affluent Mt. Adams residents and wealthy visitors leaving the bars at 2 in the morning with police escorts.

\"There\'s a clear hypocrisy there,\" said R.J., \"so we\'re going to bring our own curfew against apathy and ignorance and impose it with bright yellow uniforms, sort of sending out the warning, \'Look, this is the way our police are (downtown in O-T-R). This is their state of emergency. \'Yo Basta (enough already), Wake up, people.\"

There were no injuries or vandalism reported. The arrests took place after protesters blocked the intersection of St. Gregory and Hatch streets, in front of Mount Adams Bar & Grill. Black leaders and fellow business owners had criticized the restaurant after reports that it stayed open during the curfew declared by Mayor Charlie Luken in April after rioting spread from Over-the-Rhine to surrounding neighborhoods.

Protester Julia Reichert, a professor at Wright State University, said the march was an act of civil disobedience to stop traffic and draw attention to the inequalities that exist between the white upper class and blacks in Cincinnati. \"Curfew violators in black neighborhoods were roughed up and hauled off to jail,\" said Ms. Reichert, 54, of Yellow Springs. \"But nothing happened to curfew violators in Mount Adams.\"

Cudnik said Stonewall\'s presence in the earlier actions was essential. \"It\'s important for (us) to be out here and be visible when the issue is not necessarily a gay, lesbian, or transgender issue, It\'s a human rights issue. We need to be very visible at these events as queer people.\"

Stonewall has a Police-Community Relations project in place that was initiated in 1978 by the Greater Cincinnati gay and Lesbian Coalition \"This a human community relations issue. There are good policemen and women as concerned as as we are
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