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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 65/No.16April 23, 2001

 
Cincinnati actions protest cop killing of Black youth
(lead article)
Photo - see caption below
Glenn Hartong/Cincinnati Enquirer
Angry crowd jams city council chambers April 9 in Cincinnati in response to killing of Timothy Thomas, the fourth Black man slain by city police since November. Cops fired rubber bullets and tear gas at demonstration in the city.
 
BY VAL LIBBY AND EVA BRAIMAN
CINCINNATI--Several days of protests of up to 1,000 people, including a mass outpouring in the city council chambers, condemned the cop killing of 19-year-old Timothy Thomas, the fourth Black person killed by the city's police since November and the 15th since 1995. Police shot at protesters with rubber bullets, metal-filled beanbags, and tear gas, and made 66 arrests. Some 25 people were hospitalized, some struck by the police ammunition.

In the early hours of April 7, Thomas was shot and killed by Cincinnati cop Stephen Roach. Thomas, who had left home to buy cigarettes, was, according to police, "spotted" by two off duty cops and recognized as someone wanted by police for failure to appear in court 14 times, all on misdemeanor charges, 12 of which were traffic related, including failure to wear a seat belt.

Roach, one of 12 officers and supervisors to respond to the alert, chased down Thomas, who was unarmed, and shot him once in the chest behind an abandoned building. Since the murder, Cincinnati police have refused to release details of the shooting although a videotape of the incident was taken from a police cruiser.

Hundreds of outraged community residents converged on a Cincinnati City Council Law and Public Safety committee meeting April 9, demanding an explanation and accusing the city of covering up the facts. Timothy Thomas's mother, Angela Leisure spoke. "You took part of my life from me. And I demand to know why! They keep asking me why did my son run," she said. "If you are an African male, you will run."

After over three hours, with city officials and the chief of police refusing to answer questions, the crowd left, taking their protest to District One police headquarters.

The diverse crowd swelled to 1,000 people demanding, "Stop the killing," and chanting "No Justice, No Peace." A smaller group was later broken up by the cops using tear gas and beanbag bullets. As a helicopter aimed its high-beams through the tear-gas choked sky, police in riot gear pa trolled the Over-the Rhine district in the Black community, dispersing youth and adults in a five by 15 block area.

Over the next days, youthful crowds of protesters carrying signs saying "Don't Shoot" and "Cincinnati Cops: Stop Shooting Black People," were met by hundreds of cops in full riot gear firing tear gas, rubber projectiles, and bean bags filled with metal pellets.

An entourage of city officials, including Mayor Charles Luken, visited the Black community to urge residents to be calm. They were met by one resident who angrily said, "You come here for the broken glass, right?" referring to damage done to local shops. 'Where were you all these years before, when we were being hassled by the police?"

Last month a number of civil rights organizations and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a suit in federal court in Cleveland accusing the city of a "30-year pattern of racial profiling."

Some 43 percent of Cincinnati's 331,000 people are Black. According to the New York Times, the suit says that Blacks "are routinely singled out by the police for minor offenses far more than whites are and that police officers 'tend to use excessive and deadly force against African Americans more readily than against whites."

NAACP president Kwame Mfume issued a press release calling for a federal investigation of the Cincinnati police department and the killing of Timothy Thomas. "If you are a person of color living in the United States, the police often look at you differently," he said. "The NAACP and the African American community will never tolerate excessive police force."

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