Sunday, April 15, 2001

City hopes healing begins

Tonight's curfew pushed back to 11 p.m.

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Mary Chenault, center, prays with others marching past Washington Park to the site where Timothy Thomas was shot.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
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        As the man at the center of the weeklong storm that has clouded Cincinnati was laid to rest Saturday, the prayers for Timothy Thomas apparently carried the city through an uneasy peace for another night.

        Throughout the afternoon following Mr. Thomas' funeral, church and civic leaders took to the streets with approximately 2,000 peaceful demonstrators of all races, marching through Over-the-Rhine.

        The 19-year-old from that neighborhood was fatally shot eight days ago by a Cincinnati police officer, setting off three days of violent confrontations and another three nights of a citywide curfew.

        Encouraged by the relatively calm streets Saturday night, and in respect for the Easter holy day, officials have pushed back the start of tonight's curfew until 11 p.m.

        There were 187 arrests overnight for violating the curfew - fewer than in the previous two nights. Cincinnati Police Chief Tom Streicher said he hoped the curfew would be lifted after today, and that he doesn't want to extend it any longer than necessary.

A diverse group marches on Clark Street.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
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        “The financial effect of this is incredible on businesses and restaurants,” he said. “I care deeply about this. I hope it ends soon.”

        “I am hopeful we can maintain the calm of the last couple days,” Mayor Charlie Luken said Saturday. “I expect we will.”

Marchers mourn at the memorial for Mr. Thomas.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
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        In one tense confrontation, police shot beanbags filled with metal pellets into a crowd, striking four and injuring two, including two children. The beanbag shootings are being investigated by the police and the FBI.

        The demonstrators on Saturday included ministers leading prayers and hymns, mothers pushing children in strollers and inner-city residents shoulder-to-shoulder with suburbanites.

        After rallying in Washington Park across from Music Hall in the heart of the neighborhood where Mr. Thomas died, people crowded into Taft High School for a prayer rally that ended peacefully about 7:15 p.m., shortly before the start of the curfew.

        There were still signs of tension throughout the day, with police and television helicopters buzzing the neighborhood and those outside the funeral flinching at the sound of a siren.

A mourner wearing a T-shirt with a photo of Mr. Thomas cries outside the church.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
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        And the situation was still drawing national attention, with ABC Nightly News broadcasting live from Central Parkway, The New York Times reporting, and several regional television satellite trucks broadcasting from Taft High - across from Cincinnati Police District 1 headquarters.

        But Saturday's developments stood in stark contrast to the images of the past week — broken windows, fires, beaten and bloody motorists, an officer saved from a bullet by his gun buckle.

        “We're all coming together. We're not on any side,” said Dana Conner of Fairfield, adding that the diverse members of the crowd were “joined together for peace.”

        “We're just showing love in a practical way. Praise the Lord!”

        Mr. Thomas' funeral drew a wide mix from the community. Approximately 1,000 mourners and onlookers - ranging from youth wearing red-bandanas around their heads and necks (Mr. Thomas was wearing a red bandana when he was killed) to state and national dignitaries in conservative suits - gathered in and around New Prospect Baptist Church.

Protesters gather outside the church.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
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        The police, after vowing to stay away from the funeral to keep crowd tensions low, appeared with dogs shortly before the funeral began because of a bomb threat at the church. No bomb was found.

        Among the several hundred inside the church on Elm Street were Ohio Gov. Bob Taft; Kweisi Mfume, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Mr. Luken and all but one member of Cincinnati City Council.

        “I, of course, am a Cincinnatian,” Mr. Taft said. “I feel for the entire city of Cincinnati. I care for the entire community.

        “Timothy Thomas was a young man who was putting his life together who had a very bright future, and his untimely death was a tragedy.”

        Martin Luther King III, son of Dr. King and head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, also was in attendance, having met with Mr. Luken earlier in the day.

Martin Luther King III speaks at the funeral.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
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        “The two things we have done since we arrived are that we met with the family (of Mr. Thomas) and we have prayed with the family,” Mr. King said. “And we have met with the mayor, and we have prayed with the mayor. We are hoping to bring a new sense of hope to the community to replace the despair.”

        Others representing Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam and the New Black Panther Party also were in attendance.

        Outside the church, some residents warned that the city couldn't have lasting peace unless it makes sweeping changes.

        “This is going to happen again and again,” Otis Stevens, 38, of Over-the-Rhine said. “They built a stadium but no dime come to Over-the-Rhine. This is just the beginning of what's to come.”

        “It's a powder keg that's been building for a long time,” said Charles Ting Hampton, 30, of College Hill. “The mentality of Cincinnati is that I'm a second-class citizen. I've been here for 10 years and I'm ready to go.”

Angry marcher shouts at police.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
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        The tense day and night was the third under a citywide curfew imposed by Mayor Luken on Thursday, when he also declared a state of emergency in Cincinnati and asked for help from the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

        City officials said 200 adult and 12 juvenile arrests were made late Friday and early Saturday for violating the curfew. There have been a total of 598 arrests this week, including 164 for charges such as rioting and vandalism before the curfew and the rest for curfew violations after Thursday.

        Saturday's events marked the end of a tumultuous week that began when Mr. Thomas, 19, was shot and killed by Officer Steve Roach on April 7 after being chased by police.

        He was unarmed and brought to 15 the number of African-American males who have been killed in confrontations with Cincinnati police since January 1995. Six were armed with guns; a seventh took an officer's gun. One was armed with a knife, one wielded a brick, another held a board with nails in it. Three others were unarmed and two were in vehicles.

        The record of these fatal shootings has enraged many in the community, while many police officers and their supporters argue that in most of the cases lethal force was justified.

        Local prosecutors and federal agencies are investigating the shooting of Mr. Thomas, who was wanted on 14 warrants for misdemeanors and traffic violations.

        Outrage over the shooting led to a standoff at City Hall Monday, with the situation deteriorating over the next two days. Rioters in the mostly black neighborhoods of Over-the-Rhine, Avondale, Walnut Hills and Evanston broke windows, looted stores and in some cases, pulled motorists from their vehicles and beat them.

        Enquirer reporters Ken Alltucker, Robert Anglen, James Hannah, Andrea Tortora, Mara Gottfried, Mark Curnutte, Jennifer Mrozowski, William Weathers, Janice Morse, Kristina Goetz and Jane Prendergast contributed.

Tonight's curfew pushed back to 11 p.m.
- City hopes healing begins
FBI, police investigate beanbag shootings
Mourners hear call for new Cincinnati
Sense of need sends many to service
Shooting set off tinderbox of old troubles
Feds study police practices
Stories of 15 black men killed by police since 1995
Officer Jorg's trial delayed
Fallen officers forgotten, widow says
King calls for inclusion, end to profiling
Protester Lynch becomes
Mount Adams patrons defied curfew
Vendors relocate to keep tradition
Hot dog vendor pays back hero with relish
Unrest rekindles memory
A familiar story of Easter
Notebook: Here and there