Sunday, June 17, 2001

Grow up

Arrested development

        “When you write about me don't call me a racist, call me the biggest racist in Cincinnati,” said Gen. Kubaka Oba.

        Abdul Mohammed Ali, who had just been ejected from a Cincinnati City Council meeting, objected. “I was the original racist,” he pointed out.

        As I was leaving Wednesday's council meeting, they stopped me to protest that my column last Sunday did not show proper respect. I got their point: They are no ordinary yahoos. They are the five-star generals of the yahoo army that has been holding City Hall hostage for more than a year.

        “You were too easy on us,” Gen Oba laughed.

        Considering how I called them a “parliament of race hustlers and professional protesters,” they were remarkably cordial.

        Maybe it was the cops sitting behind me.

        Or maybe it was because they like to see their names in the paper and see their faces on city cable. Maybe it's all a game, and I'm just helping them score a few more garbage points by mentioning them again. But they are not easy to ignore.

        Mr. Ali was tossed out for interrupting the meeting with histrionic “coughing” that sounded like a barking dog. Gen. Oba, invited to rant by Councilwoman Minette Cooper, made extravagant boasts about being anti-white, anti-Semitic and “very, very anti-police.” A third regular, William Kirkland, who has been arrested for threatening the mayor, did an encore performance. As he was being ejected by four cops, he yelled at Mayor Charlie Luken, “I'll see you at your house! You a punk and a coward!” He could still be heard shouting “Punk and coward!” in the hall as the doors were swinging shut behind him.

        Mr. Luken, supported by council members, kept his cool and ejected four bad actors in the Theater of Disorderly Conduct.

        They left in a swirling cloud of ugly threats about “taking it to the streets,” and other menacing references to the April riots.

        Mr. Kirkland's remark about visiting Mr. Luken at home was no social call.

        But tough new enforcement of council rules seemed to help. From now on, anyone who disrupts a meeting with inappropriate behavior, bad language or insults will be ejected; visitors cannot speak on the agenda unless they are invited by a council member; and anyone who is ejected loses speaking privileges for a month.

        That probably sounded pretty reasonable to a dozen visiting students from the W.E.B DuBois charter school. If any of those kids threatened a teacher or called someone a punk and a coward, “That student would be suspended automatically,” said Superintendent Wilson Willard.

        “The students were shocked and did have a lot of questions,” he said the next day. “We explained that sometimes people resort to name-calling and shouting instead of being reasonable.”

        Dressed neatly in coats and ties, the children were so quiet and well behaved that the mayor told them, “I don't think you have moved or breathed since you sat down.” When they stood to leave, the room erupted in spontaneous applause for their good behavior.

        “We were very proud of that,” Mr. Willard said. “We had discussed with them that we will be in public, that we will be on cable TV.”

        Compare that to Gen. Oba: “No matter how you change the rules, we will find a way to come down here and be highly confrontational,” he told the council as the meeting limped to a close.

        The W.E.B. DuBois social studies class was visiting to learn how adults run local government. But I left wishing some adults could learn more from those kids.

        Contact Enquirer Associate Editor Peter Bronson at 768-8301; fax: 768-8610; e-mail: Cincinnati.Com keyword: Bronson.


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