The Rage in Cincinnati

Revolutionary Worker #1101, May 6, 2001, posted at

The following article is by an RW reporter in Cincinnati.

As we drove up and down a few hills into Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine neighborhood passing near where Timothy Thomas had been gunned, I could already feel the excitement people felt about what had been accomplished in those three days of rebellion when the people took the streets. We took hundreds of "Cincinnati: It's Right to Rebel!" RW's out of the trunk and walked over to the Finlay Market area. Several youth came up to see what we had. The minute they eyed the front page with picture of rebels surrounding the police headquarters, a huge smile spread across their faces as they took bundles of RW's out to their friends and others around.

The youth and others were so proud of what they had done, so proud of taking on the vicious cops who had harrassed them, beaten them and killed some of their friends and relatives over the years. Because, this time, shit broke loose. A couple days after Timothy Thomas was killed by a cop for having outstanding misdemeanor warrants, the youth rebelled, continuing to fight back even while being hit with rubber bullets, beanbags, and tear gas. Many people told me that "going to the table" over and over again, speaking out at city council week after week, year after year just didn't cut it. The powers there never even stepped back when 15 Black men were gunned down or choked to death over the last five years. It took this uprising for the enemy to take notice. Now the eyes of millions are checking out Cincinnati.

We went all over the area with the RW, and as people took bundles, they kept talking about what had happened and what they felt about the situation. People are outraged that only moments after Timothy Thomas' funeral, several cops jumped out of their cars and shot beanbag bullets at a crowd of people walking with protest signs a block away from the church--injuring two kids, 7 and 12 years old. A white woman teacher was seriously injured, with ribs broken and an injury to her spleen. As the police drove away over 200 people marched to the District 1 station and sat in the street. Lots of people angrily told me that this action by the police showed that the city and the cops have no remorse for the murder of Timothy Thomas. People told me, "The police have not changed, the city has not changed, they have no heart." The four cops who shot at the protestors were given paid leave, no indictments and the police chief said, "When all is said and done, the police will be cleared."

The curfew was lifted on Monday, April 16. But the masses all said it was not because the city was lightening up its clampdown on the people, but because the Cincinnati Reds baseball team was playing. Last week, the city held a meeting to let the youth "express their views." The authorities completely controlled the meeting. When a 35-year-old man went off on the officials calling them devils for the killings and brutalizing the police had done over the years, the police came right on him, shut him up and forced him out of the chambers. So much for their "speakouts." This week there was a public meeting at the County Commissioner's office to talk about the new Bengals' football stadium but the people turned it into their speakout on police brutality.

Most everyone in the Over-the-Rhine told us that nothing is resolved. The county prosecutor, Michael Allen, will hear nothing of the people's demand for amnesty for the rebels. Many people call the youth "heroes" for having the courage to battle against the cops and the powers for all the killings against Black men. Allen has indicted 63 people (62 Black and one white) on inciting to riot, resisting arrest, looting and some other charges. Allen is offering money for anyone with videotapes so he can capture more rebels. He claims he is going for the maximum punishment; and people are angry that folks could get lots of time in prison for fighting the police murder of Timothy Thomas. On Thursday some of the 63 people with felony charges made their pleas at an arraignment. No family or supporters were allowed to witness the arraignment which was conducted in the jail over closed-circuit TV.

Outside the building where police gunned down Timothy Thomas in a dark alley, there is a memorial with beautiful flowers, pictures, and writing on the walls, "RIP Timothy." The city is now in the process of tearing the building down. One activist told me, "They want to tear down the building with the memorial. They are heatin' it up. They don't realize people ain't goin' to put up with this shit. When they come with the bulldozer we got to be there."

On Friday, April 27, press in Cincinnati reported that the decision from the grand jury was coming down on the killer cop, so all afternoon police helicopters flew above the Over-the-Rhine and stores started boarding up, thinking that if the cop was not indicted, the rebellion could jump off again.

As we went through the area, the stories poured out. A 68-year-old Black woman told me, "I went to the city council just before this police killing, and just before I spoke I stood there and showed my permanently twisted hands from a police beating in 1974 and said, 'Look at my hands, this is what your police did to me. I will never, never, never forget or forgive you all for this. I will have only hate for that brutal act until the day I die.'"

I heard about how a white cop raped three black women and got six months probation. People were angry that jobs for a youth program were cut just before the Timothy Thomas was killed, angry at the attacks on the poor in Over-the-Rhine, the destruction of housing projects, the discrimination in jobs and the overall poverty among our people. Over and over we heard, "People just waiting to see if the cop is charged. People just waiting. Not over yet."

As a Black man in his 30s from a housing project looked at the RW, he turned to me and said, "You know, we need our own state of emergency where the cops are afraid to come over here where we are. They have to stay in the station. They need to be afraid."

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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