Friday, June 15, 2001

Tough talk will be part of rally

But all want to curb outbreak of crime

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        An Avondale teen said he looks forward to meeting Cincinnati police officers this weekend, looking them in the eye and talking openly about the escalating black-on-black crime plaguing city neighborhoods.

        LaVandez Jones, 16, also wants to talk about economic development and police relations when he attends Saturday's Teen Stop the Violence March and Rally.

        As many as 1,000 teens, police, and community and business leaders will march from Swifton Commons to Roselawn Park beginning at noon Saturday to protest the increase in crime since the April riots.

        There were 33 nonfatal shootings between April 1 and May 28, compared with six during the same period in 2000, police records show. Officers also think the riots ignited new gang activity.

        The riots followed the fatal shooting of Timothy Thomas, a young, unarmed African-American man by a white Cincinnati officer April7.

        It's rare that teens get such an opportunity to express their opinions and promote positive change, said LaVandez, a junior at Walnut Hills High School and member of the Avondale Public Safety Task Force.

        “Teen-agers want to help. They want to take an active part,” he said.

        In the past weeks, he has visited churches, recreation centers and other facilities to tell his fellow teens about Saturday's event. Organizer Sam Malone, a Cincinnati City Council candidate, said the day will promote open communication between police officers and teens.

        “We want to engage in a session of education,” Mr. Malone said. Teens “don't mind playing a game as long as they know what the rules are.”

        Organizers said Saturday's participants will include the Rev. Damon Lynch III of New Prospect Baptist Church, who has been a strong voice for the city's African-American community, and Fraternal Order of Police President Keith Fangman.

        A rally, with free food and music, will follow at the park. A round-table discussion between six Cincinnati police officers and six youths will be part of the rally activities.

        Citizen's Committee on Youth, which works with at-risk youth, has told 350 youngsters about the event. Group president Clarence Williams expects 75 to attend.

        “Young people have an interest (in their community) and it's been heightened since the disturbance this spring,” Mr. Williams said. They “want to be heard.”

        “We see the rally as providing that vehicle.”


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