Monday, May 28, 2001

'March for Justice' Saturday

Leisure, Lynch to lead event

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Marchers will call for an end to racial injustice Saturday in the same peaceful manner that the late Rev. Maurice “Mac” McCrackin once did, organizers say.

        Angela Leisure, who has called for calm since April 7, when a Cincinnati police officer fatally shot her unarmed son, will help lead the way in the “March for Justice.”

        She plans to demand accountability for her son's death when she speaks at an 11 a.m. pre-march rally in Fountain Square, along with the Rev. Damon Lynch III, pastor of New Prospect Bap tist Church, former Ohio governor John Gilligan, and others.

        Representatives from labor unions and church and civil rights organizations will be in the crowd.

        Marchers then will leave Fountain Square and proceed toward Laurel Park, at Ezzard Charles Drive and Linn Street, where the fourth an nual “Rev. McCrackin Day Celebration” will be taking place.

        Organizers for both events said it made perfect sense to connect the two.

        The Rev. Mr. McCrackin, longtime pastor of the West End's Community Church, “was a pacifist and he was a civil rights activist,” said Dan La Botz, a March for Justice organizer and University of Cincinnati history professor. “If he was alive today, he'd be involved in organizing a march like this.... He was a very committed person and his passion was clearly contagious.”

        Mr. La Botz began organizing the march a week after Mr. Thomas died. The shooting inspired the African-American community to call for an end to racism in Cincinnati and sparked protests and riots in predominantly black neighborhoods.

        But, “white people also oppose this racial segrega tion,” Mr. La Botz said. The march “will be where many ordinary citizens can display their dissent with the city. It's a rank-and-file effort coming out of many different parts of the city. We want to end the ... patterns and practices of racism that we see in the police department.”

        The Rev. Mr. McCrackin would lead Saturday's march if he were alive, said his friends and colleagues.

        “He would be in the thick of it. (But) he would be terribly saddened and he'd be trying to heal” the community, said Brian Garry, 36, of East Walnut Hills. He has spent the past years organizing the Rev. McCrackin Day Celebration, which focused on peaceful protest in the name of several human rights causes.

        A Presbyterian minister, the Rev. Mr. McCrackin was known for conducting peaceful protests against war, poverty, homelessness, nuclear arms, racial segregation and other matters concerning human rights before his death in December 1997. He was 92.

        When confronted by police, the pastor often sat down, forcing the officers to drag him away. He often wore a hat sporting the advice, “Be Kind.”

        Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church held his memorial service. The church's pastor, the Rev. Stephen Van Kuiken, also will speak at Saturday's pre-march rally.

        “We are a community that is divided by class and race,” he said. “This economic and racial segregation has deep structural causes and implications that we must address. Mac was probably one of the most prominent civil disobedient persons in Cincinnati. He lived his life following principles of nonviolence and social change. It's a natural connection.”

        Mac Day will run from noon to 6 p.m. Art, music, free food, children's games and information booths will be featured. This year's theme is “Preserving Low-Income Housing in the West End.”


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