Tuesday, May 08, 2001

Church helps keep calm


Lynch urges civil disobedience

By Richelle Thompson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Inside the eye of Monday's protest was an eerie calm. Anger, frustration and disappointment seethed on the edges, but 150 protesters gathered at New Prospect Baptist Church an hour after the misdemeanor indictments against officer Stephen Roach were announced Monday to regroup.

        They poured from the streets of Over-the-Rhine about 7 p.m., rain running down their faces, their shoulders wet. A few wore bandannas covering their noses and mouths.

        The group told members of the media to leave and barred cameras from coming in. The Rev. Damon Lynch III, pastor of the church, asked everyone to bow their heads, close their eyes and pray.

        Then, one by one, some of the young adult leaders of the group took the microphone from the Rev. Mr. Lynch and urged the mostly African-American protesters to organize and peacefully march against injustice.

        Dressed in a white muscle T-shirt, one man suggested moving the protest to Mount Adams.

        “We need to use the tactics of guerrilla warfare. Strike where they're weak,” he said. “We need to go someplace where people just can't look on the TV and say, "It's their problem.”'

        Another called for mothers and fathers to put aside differences and both play a role in their childrens' lives. He told them not to turn their back on the church and to vote.

        “We have to stop letting Cincinnati sweep things under the carpet,” he said.

        In a soft, soothing voice, another leader readied the group to march. He promised to jump in front of fellow protesters and take the brunt of any beanbags shot by police. He said he would still wear his mask, but asked the group not to run, not to incite the police.

        Lock arms, he told the group, so if the person next to you wants to run, you're his or her inspiration.

        “This is our city,” he said, “and we're taking it back.”

        Protesters signed a notebook with their names and numbers so leaders could contact them for future protests. Some of the speakers urged the protesters to come to Fountain Square today and continue the marches.

        The pent-up energy became palpable, and many in the group rose and started for the door to march Monday night.

        The Rev. Mr. Lynch urged them back to the pews.

        The pastor is co-chairman of Mayor Charlie Luken's newly created Cincinnati Community Action Now group that is designed to ad dress racial issues “We must rise above what they think about us,” the Rev. Mr. Lynch said. “If you throw a brick or a bottle, you're messing up what we're trying to do. ... What happens on the street moves what happens in the boardroom.”

        The Rev. Mr. Lynch called on clergy to be in the front of the group, to model civil disobedience and be the first ones arrested.

        He encouraged the group to remember the Old Testament story about Joshua and Jericho. Joshua and the Israelites marched around Jericho seven times, and then the walls came tumbling down.

        The protesters should do the same at police headquarters, he said. “Wouldn't it be amazing if some of the walls came down?”

        Then the Rev. Mr. Lynch, young adults in bandannas and people wearing raincoats made their way out the church and onto the streets.

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The day in pictures
Officer indicted on least serious charge
- Church helps keep calm
Tristaters reactions split
What makes charge a misdemeanor
Prosecutor: Jury did right thing
Federal scrutiny of police expands
Roach 'by-the-book' sort of cop
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Closures keep Main St. quiet
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RADEL: A call for change
Details of the shooting
Luken's re-election chances might be enhanced
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Time line of events
Archive of riot coverage
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