Monday, May 07, 2001

Riot-torn neighborhoods show support

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        This is the tale of two mornings.

        On Easter morning last month, Over-the-Rhine and West End residents hit the streets at 6 a.m. as the post-riot curfew ended for the night, many said just to reclaim their freedom.

        Tension filled the predawn darkness in the mainly African-American neighborhoods, amid flashing police lights and suspicious glares.

        On Sunday, they came out at 6:30 a.m. to cheer runners they didn't even know and who were overwhelmingly white.

        “It's a very small way to show a little love, you know, for race relations,” M.C. Wright Jr., 50, said as he leaned on his cane on the median at Central Parkway and Elm Street, which divides Over-the-Rhine from downtown.

        Mr. Wright, who lives in Over-the-Rhine, said that, after the violence sparked by the Cincinnati police shooting of an unarmed African-American man, the recovery has been a slow work in progress.

        As such, Sunday's Flying Pig Marathon was well-timed and a well-received diversion.

        “I look at it like just a positive thing for people to come together,” Fred O'Neal, 13, of West End said as he sat on his bike in front of the District 1 police station on Ezzard Charles Drive. “You know, black and white, to watch the race.”

        Hundreds did just that, especially later as runners doubled back to Central Parkway, which served as mile markers 4 and 17.

        “I've seen 'em all the way on Dayton Street,” said Tyrone Woo dard, 31, of West End. “It's been a brutally hard month. Lot of tension. ... This Pig thing, (organizers) could have stopped it. It could have started a riot again. But they let it go on, and that was cool.”

        Still, national TV images of looted stores and chaotic street violence were a concern for out-of-towners.

        “My sympathy was with them and I was hoping they'd get everything together before we came up, but it won't be overnight,” Rhonda Jackson, 40, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said as she sat along Central Parkway with her 15-year-old son, Jimmy.

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