Sunday, April 15, 2001

Sense of need sends many to service

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Anne Braden, a 76-year-old white woman from Louisville, didn't know Timothy Thomas. Neither did Deana Taylor, a 30-year-old black woman from Kennedy Heights, but she and her two children had heard about him on TV.

Mourner anguishes after the funeral.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
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        They were among hundreds of people — many of them strangers to Mr. Thomas — from all segments of society who came to New Prospect Baptist Church during Mr. Thomas' visitation Saturday.

        Their purpose: to grieve, to protest and to show determination to change race relations in Cincinnati.

        “If you knew him or if you didn't doesn't matter,” said Patricia Cooley of Springfield Township. “That young man's initials were T.N.T. — that's dynamite. And when he got killed, that exploded this city.”

        A few protesters chanted angrily a couple of blocks from the church, but most of those closest to the church appeared solemn, thoughtful and hopeful.

Mourner pauses at the casket.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
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        “The children have watched the news all week, and I want them to know what it's like to be positive and come together with a united front to change things,” said Mrs. Taylor. “The police put on a uniform and put themselves in harm's way, so you have to respect the police for that. But they've lost that respect, and they're going to have to work to regain it.”

        Her son, Donald, 7, said he felt sad and scared about the week's events. Her daughter, Courtney, 11, agreed, but said she had a sense that she was witnessing history.

        “If I have children, I can tell my children and grandchildren that I was here, I was part of a rally, and I was here when they closed the city down,” Courtney said.

Mourners comfort each other outside the church.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
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        Ms. Braden came from Louisville with a group called Citizens Against Police Abuse. Citizens in that city have been protesting the deaths of several black youths shot by police in recent years.

        “We've been talking peacefully with our powers that be, and nothing hap pened,” Ms. Braden said. “It's sad you can't get public officials to notice until someone throws a rock .... There's going to be more of this unrest until the powers that be really respond to the people of the community.”

        Eric Kerl, a 26-year-old white man from Covington, said he had never attended a visitation for a stranger before, but felt he had to come Saturday “out of respect for Tim.”

Terry Thomas, younger brother of Timothy Thomas, holds Timothy's 3-month-old son, Tywon.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
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        He was glad to see that the gathering “has taken on a more peaceful character,” he said. “People are becom ing more thoughtful about how we can really change things.”

        Saturday's gathering was “a symbol of change for the city, in police and community relations,” said Mark Monroe, 30, pastor of Unity Temple Ministries in Walnut Hills.

        “Everyone is here because they are part of an experience that you can't separate yourself from,” said Ahmad Muhammad, 42, of Westwood. “You can't isolate yourself from what happened to Timothy.”


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