Thursday, April 12, 2001

Citizens terrorized by violence


Some watched, some pleaded, others despaired

By Kristina Goetz and Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        One stood outside his corner store. Another hid behind her front-door screen. One was stuck at City Hall. Another behind the wheel of his van.

        As rioting erupted in the streets of Over-the-Rhine Tuesday, residents experienced a kind of mayhem Cincinnati hasn't seen in decades.

        It was still vividly clear Wednesday in residents' tales about what had happened when racial tensions erupted in the Queen City: It was 12 hours of terror.

        Protesters took to the streets with bats, metal pipes and bottles. Masked men ignited buildings, smashed windows and shot guns into the air. Looters grabbed TVs and stereos.

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        While mothers shouted for their children to get inside, police in riot gear stomped methodically in straight lines toward rioters. Some fired rubber projectiles. Men fell. Shouts continued into the night.

Corner store

        Imad Alyan was inside the Bank Cafe at 12th and Vine streets when people started streaming in.

        “They were hiding inside because of the shooting,” said Khaled Daqer, a store employee.

        But things there, too, turned violent. Some were stealing. Mr. Alyan, also a store employee, wanted them out.

        “One guy hit him in the back of the head,” Mr. Daqer said. “He has a fractured skull.”

        In a store that had never called 911, police arrived. Bystanders held Mr. Alyan's head.

        “I talked to him today,” Mr. Daqer said, “He said, "I feel drowsy.' It will be a few days before he can come outside.”

12th and Republic

               Just before 11 p.m., Christina Clark stood behind her front-door screen. She watched the violence erupt.

        “Some fools threw a bottle off the balcony, and I guess I was a target,” she said.

        Then, she thought she heard a firecracker. So loud near her ear. The 19-year-old dropped to the floor and crawled toward the wall.

        It was a bullet, the doctor said. She got 15 stitches and a hole in her ear.

        “I am scared to death,” she said. “Scared of being shot again. But I'm alive. That's all that matters.”

        Just yards away was the alley in which Timothy Thomas was shot dead by police, the reason the violence began in the first place.

City Hall

               Mayor Charlie Luken was holed up in his City Hall office with advisers and police officials.

        His first priority: Find a way to keep the crowds from becoming violent. He also knew the police had to be ready for the worst.

        He moved back and forth between meetings. With Police Chief Tom Streicher. With community leaders, lawyers and pastors who might be able to calm the crowds.

        He worked the phones as officials with the Human Relations Commission did the same. Their pitch: “Please, help us restore order.”

        “We were all hoping we could find some way to get some peace on the streets,” Mr. Luken recalled. “Unfortunately, that didn't work out so well.”

        He met again with Chief Streicher to talk strategy.

        Hours later, he ventured into the troubled neighborhood himself for a meeting at New Prospect Church. He never made it.

        As he drove into Over-the-Rhine, his car was met by an angry mob. They shouted insults and demanded he leave the area. The mayor grabbed his cell phone and called the chief.

        “There's hundreds of police down here. Are you sure this is what you want to do?” the mayor asked.

        “It's better to be ready this way,” the chief said, “than to be caught off guard.”

        When the situation grew worse later that night, the mayor said he was glad so many police were on hand.

Walnut Street

        Mike Gundling gripped the wheel of his van. He was headed to the old Volunteers of America building for a remodeling job.

        He saw the trash cans in the street. Then he saw the teen-agers.

        One small kid, about 13, had a brick.

        “I saw the brick leaving his hand and I just turned my head,” Mr. Gundling said.

        Smash! His window shattered, and the brick hit him in the neck and chest.

        “Before, I was never afraid to come downtown,” he said. “Not anymore. I couldn't believe what was happening. It scared the hell out of me.”

        As rioters tore through the streets of Over-the-Rhine, Mr. Gundling wondered about it all.

        “They're tearing up everything we're trying to do down there,” he said. “Why are they tearing up their own community?”

       



Violence worsens, spreads
Grand jury will probe shooting
NAACP's Mfume, city leaders meet today
- Citizens terrorized by violence
Some business owners, residents felt targeted
Luken offers support to damaged areas
Ministers rally, then walk the streets
Panel's view: What should the city do next?
PULFER: Refusing to give up on the city
Residents try to comprehend destruction
Violence a sign of unsolved problems
Arrests mostly of young males
Bengal Basnight wants to help stop violence
Reds urge end to violence
Parker: Problems have better solutions
Image worries downtown merchants
School activities address unrest