Friday, May 11, 2001

Lynch protests

If we run scared, mob wins

        Mob rule.

        That's Cincinnati's new form of government.

        Fueled by a climate of fear and intimidation, an undisciplined crowd is threatening the city's festivals.

        This could not happen at a worse time. Cincinnati needs to be united and repaired. Mob rule divides and destroys.

        One day, protesters circulate leaflets at City Hall declaring “No justice, no Jammin' on Main.”

        The next day, Pepsi Jammin' on Main is canceled.

        Taste of Cincinnati could be next. Thinly veiled threats came Wednesday from the Rev. Damon Lynch III, a self-styled peacemaker who thrives on taking grievances to the streets.

        Rev. Lynch suggested that Taste — another May street festival generating millions of dollars — should be canceled.

        “The taste of Cincinnati,” he said, “is sour.”

        That flavor, he said, comes from “poor police relations and international mockery.”

        He added: “Until that taste changes, people can eat at home.”

        I'm beginning to get a sour taste in my mouth about Rev. Lynch. And mob rule.

        Forcing, threatening or even suggesting the cancellation of peaceful events further polarizes the city.

        And it fails to take note of the positive aspects of events such as Jammin' on Main and Taste of Cincinnati.

        Racial harmony can be promoted when a melting pot of people stand shoulder to shoulder listening to music and chewing on festival food.

Attention-getting devices
        Since Monday, Rev. Lynch has led protesters in nonviolent marches, sit-ins and the like. They're offended by what they see as slap-on-the-wrist charges being filed against Cincinnati Police Officer Stephen Roach, following the fatal shooting of Timothy Thomas.

        Such protests hit the city where it hurts. They go after Cincinnati's family-friendly image. And they make suburbanites and city dwellers leery of coming downtown to spend money.

        But I can't see where these protests honor the memory of Timothy Thomas.

        Or further the cause of justice.

        Downtown visitors will resent a bunch of protesters ruining their fun. They will feel they are being held hostage, unfairly singled out.

        Protesters could fairly respond: Now you know how it feels.

        But that's no way to woo potential supporters.

What's needed
        Organizers of festivals like Jammin' On Main don't want to lose money. Or put their patrons' safety at risk.

        So, in times of unrest, I can understand the wisdom of pulling the plug on such events.

        Still, the city can't cave in to every threat.

        Make Jammin' on Main the first and only casualty. Let the show go on for Taste of Cincinnati.

        Cancel an event every time somebody protests, and we're going to be in for a long, quiet summer.

        That could put an end to the Reds' home season as well as the Coors Light Festival.

        Run scared and the mob wins.

        Until everyone — protesters, police and average citizens — obeys the law, Cincinnati won't solve the serious problems it faces.

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.


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