Sunday, June 03, 2001

Tillery presses activism at polls

By Randy McNutt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Several hundred people on Saturday packed the Allen Temple AME Church at Swifton Commons for Cincinnati's first African-American Political Caucus Kickoff Rally and March.

        They heard former Cincinnati Mayor Dwight Tillery urge urban blacks to support politicians who will fight for their causes.

        “For years, African-Americans have come to city hall complaining about police abuse, only to receive a deaf ear,” he told the crowd. “I've watched our leaders be racially profiled ... (Council members) come down (to the black community) to do the booty call and eat a piece of fried chicken, and then go back downtown and vote against our interests time and time again.

        “We comprise 43 percent of the population, yet they don't listen to us.”

        The political caucus is made up of voters interested in African-American needs. It will support individual candidates but not political parties.

        The caucus will also monitor the voting records of politicians and issue report cards, grading them on how they vote on causes close to the black community.

        “Black people were hanged in this country so we could vote,” Mr. Tillery told the crowd. “Black people had fire hoses turned on them. ... We can't let all that happen in vain.

        “Take up the ballot and stop police abuse in our community!”

        Howard Bond, master of ceremonies, called Saturday's meeting a “historic occasion,” and said it will ultimately bring about better education, economic development and accountability of police leaders.

        “Other cities are watching us,” he said.

        Cincinnati made the national news April 7 when Officer Stephen Roach fatally shot Timothy Thomas, 19, an unarmed black man, in Over-the-Rhine. Officer Roach is now under indictment in the death.

        Cincinnati's subsequent racial unrest and riots made it clear to the black community that they must organize politically, Mr. Tillery said this week. The caucus will probably endorse candidates for Cincinnati City Council this year, he said.

        “Far too many of our people say voting doesn't matter,” he said. “But it does. We give our votes to the Democratic Party, which is the majority, and what good has it done us? If we organize, vote and vote as a block, we can send a message that's never been sent before.”


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