The Fight Against Police Brutality Continues

Cincinnati: 3,000 March for Justice

Revolutionary Worker #1107, June 17, 2001, posted at

We received this report from a correspondent:

Cincinnati, June 2--3,000 people from Cincinnati, from all over Ohio, and from different parts of the country marched for justice to protest the repeated murders of Black men by the police. In early April, 19-year-old Timothy Thomas was shot in cold blood by a Cincinnati cop in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood--the 15th Black man killed by cops in this city since 1995. This latest police murder touched off days of rebellion--and the fight against police brutality and murder in Cincinnati has continued since then.

The June 2 protest began with a rally at Fountain Square downtown. The October 22nd Coalition from Detroit and Cleveland came with a huge banner that declared "Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation." A Black woman carried a board with pictures of many Black men--all victims of police killings in Cincinnati. There were makeshift signs bringing out the outrage people feel about police brutality and the targeting of Black people by the cops.

Angela Leisure, mother of Timothy Thomas, was one of the speakers at the rally. She said, "I pray my son will be the last one to die. But I don't think he will be. They [city officials] have not made any changes to ensure that this won't happen again. My son was the center of my life. Others who have been killed were the centers of other people's lives. When my son was killed, I lost 49 minutes of my life. I stared at the clock for 49 minutes because I could not believe that my son was dead."

The protest involved many different groups and people: the homeless, labor unions, ministers and churches, immigrant groups, Refuse & Resist!, anarchist youth, and others. An important presence was the many relatives of Black victims of police murder in Cincinnati.

After the rally, the protesters took to the streets. Hundreds of people along the way expressed solidarity with the marchers--raising their fists and chanting along with the marchers, "No Justice, No Peace, No Racist Police." The march became more and more diverse as Black youth and others joined up.

As the march went close by where Timothy Thomas was gunned down, Angela Leisure and others went to the memorial for Timothy at the end of a small alley. The thousands of marchers paused in a moment of silence. But at the same time, there was an eerie reminder that the racist police who have killed so many Black people are still out there--the sound of their helicopters overhead could be heard over the silence.

When this national protest against police brutality was announced, the city authorities were dead set against it. They knew that many youth were going to organize to come to the city from all over the country. They remembered what happened last November when the anti-globalization youth broke through police lines and barricades to oppose the TABD (Trans Atlantic Business Dialogue)--a meeting of top executives of major capitalist corporations from the U.S. and Europe. City officials refused to issue a permit for a march in the streets--using the justification that there would be violence from "outsiders." The police also put out word that they would be closely checking the license plates of cars from outside the local county for outstanding traffic tickets--and that they had hired a towing company located 25 miles outside of the city.

On June 2 the police were mobilized in large numbers: there were vans full of cops riding along side of the march as well as groups of cops along the route blocking off many streets.

The march ended at Laurel Park in the West End, a Black community. Here, the protesters joined the yearly gathering celebrating the work of Maurice McCracken, a minister who fought injustices until the day he died. He was known to fight hard for the people, including against police brutality. As people gathered, ate and talked about the day, I talked to many marchers.

"The city has been becoming more and more oppressive," a Black man in his 30's told me. "Everybody talkin' about what's the police doing out there in the streets. Once you get into a police car it's a whole new world, a whole new world of all kinds of racism. You go into the Justice Center, you're automatically considered guilty. Anything you can't prove you didn't do, you are going to automatically be found guilty."

An anarchist youth from Columbus said, "I think the march was a success. The fact the march happened at all was really important. It took an uprising, a rebellion and the march pushed for the goals of the rebellion... Revolution, a complete change in the entire social structure and the downfall of capitalism and all the different oppressions tied to that and to each other is absolutely essential to get justice."

A teenage Black youth told me she thought the march was important: "A lot of Black people coming together, a lot of all people coming together, and for a good reason.... I think it will make a difference in stopping the police killing, eventually."

A youth involved in the anti-globalization movement also felt the march was very positive in uniting the people: "I think it was important for people to see white and Black people marching together against racism, against police brutality--issues that affect the Black community at a far higher level than they do white people. People in the anti-globalization movement came here. This is such an important step to put together these struggles, to say these are all one struggle...We are all connected in this. The people who exploit workers in Third World countries are here and hire the police to beat down on Black communities. That's what we are struggling against. And that's what we are striving to transform--into something new, something livable...."

As people left the park, about 100 youth headed to Mt. Adams to protest the fact that during the rebellion, upscale white communities like Mt. Adams had no curfew while there was a brutal clampdown in the Black sections of the city. As the youth marched, the police attacked, spraying mace directly into people's faces, and arresting 12. One arrested protester was reportedly beaten and electro-shocked with a tazer gun in jail.

As I listened and talked to the people of diverse backgrounds that came from near and far for this march for justice, it was clear that the struggle against police brutality, killer cops, and racial profiling continues. There is deep outrage that many of the rebels who rose up heroically for three days and three nights are still locked up with up to $100,000 bails, some facing felonies that could get them 25 years in prison. And people are very angry that the killer cop Roach who stole Timothy Thomas's life only got two misdemeanors.

There were many voices speaking, many different views on how the people can stop this epidemic of police brutality. But through all the diversity of people and views, there was a consistent voice of pride about the rebellion. Among many people, there is a clear sense that when the youth broke loose in hard-fought confrontations against the killers of Timothy Thomas, the world took notice of the horrors Black people go through at the hands of these murdering cops. The rebellion inspired millions and shook the enemy. And the spirit of "It's Right to Rebel" was felt especially among the youth as they marched and chanted through the streets.

As a Black woman in her 30's told me in Laurel Park, "The city officials really underestimate the people. They think it's going to be business as usual, but it's not going to be business as usual--because people are out, they're taking it to the streets. The rebellion was a form of discontent, contempt and disdain for the government, period."

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