Friday, September 28, 2001

City spends second night under curfew

Spot restrictions considered

By Robert Anglen and Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Mayor Charlie Luken clamped Cincinnati under a second night of curfew Thursday, recognizing that the city is still on edge after a judge acquitted a white police officer in the April shooting death of a black man.

        Mr. Luken will decide this morning whether extending the curfew is necessary.


Complete coverage in our special section.

        But he and other city officials are also considering limiting the curfew to one or more neighborhoods. He told The Cincinnati Enquirer that city lawyers are determining whether such a plan is legally enforceable.

        Mr. Luken said there is interest from City Council not to punish the entire city when most of the violence is occurring in one neighborhood.

        Thursday night's curfew began at 11 p.m., one hour later than originally ordered, to minimize the impact on businesses. That didn't stop the mayor's office from being flooded with dozens of calls from business owners outraged by the curfew.

        As the 11 p.m. curfew neared Thursday, there were scattered instances of Dumpster fires in Avondale, and unconfirmed reports of shots fired in Evanston and Avondale. Over-the-Rhine was quiet, police said.

        At Neon's on East 12th Street in Over-the-Rhine, owners Scott and Terry Carter said they planned to stay open all night, despite the curfew.

   Arrest tally during Thursday morning's curfew, invoked shortly after midnight and ending at 6 a.m.
   • 14 arrests, including two juveniles.
   • 12 adults arrested were all charged with minor offenses such as disorderly conduct, having an open container of alcohol in public and drug possession.Four were charged only with violating the curfew.
   • Police issued far more warnings than citations, because many people were unaware a curfew had been called.
   • About 30 fires were set, mostly in garbage cans. Two cars were set ablaze.
   • One police van window was shattered.
   Times for several prep football games were changed from 7:30 p.m. in anticipation of a possible curfew extension:
   • Withrow at Walnut Hills, now 6 p.m.
   • Hughes at Aiken, 6 p.m.
   • Woodward at Mount Healthy, 6 p.m.
   • Shroder Paideia at Western Hills, 6 p.m.
   • Kettering Alter at Roger Bacon, 7 p.m.
   • Saturday: McNicholas vs. Purcell Marian at Norwood Stadium, 6:30 p.m.
        But there weren't any customers at 11 p.m., and the front door was locked. The brothers said they would let anyone in who came to the door.

        “A small segment of urban terrorists is making it tough on the whole city,” Scott Carter said. “We're not going to let anybody tell us when we can stay open, even though we know nobody is coming in. This is our way of protest.”

        Councilman Jim Tarbell was out on a bicycle on Main Street after curfew Thursday.

        “I'm affirming the streets are safe,” he said.

        Elsewhere on Main Street and Vine Street shortly after the curfew began, the only traffic was police cruisers and cabs. There were scattered pedestrians on the sidewalks, but police generally ignored them.

        Mr. Luken said there was enough violence the night before to warrant the declaration of emergency.

        “Go home, say a prayer, hug your kids, watch TV,” he said. “This is a night to stay at home.”

        Spirits were down at Nicholson's Tavern and Pub on Walnut Street earlier Thursday night — at least in terms of sales.

        Bartender Marc Hochmuth said happy-hour sales were down and the bar would get none of the theater crowd that usually comes in after a performance at the Aronoff Center.

        “Based on the last couple of times, the bar fills up,” he said. “Tonight we're going to close at 10 p.m.”

        At Trattoria Roma restaurant on Walnut Street, it was business as usual earlier in the evening. With no bar sales to worry about, waiter Randy Sheppard said the restaurant was crowded and would close at its usual time.

        “We were a little afraid (the curfew) would scare people away,” he said.

        But theater goers said nothing could keep them from the 8 p.m. performance of Phantom of the Opera at the Aronoff.

        “Nothing could stop us,” said Jenny Bangs of Mount Lookout. “But we are going to have to go straight home.”

14 arrests made
        The curfew was called after violence broke out late Wednesday in Over-the-Rhine after Officer Stephen Roach was acquitted of negligent homicide in the shooting death April 7 of Timothy Thomas. Mr. Thomas was shot in a dark alley while running from police.

        Police said 14 people, including two juveniles, were arrested. The 12 adults were charged with minor offenses, mostly disorderly conduct. Two adults were charged only with curfew violations.

        Two cars were set on fire, one police van window was shattered and about 30 fires were set. Bottles and bricks also were thrown at police.

        Police Lt. Kurt Byrd said there were few curfew arrests because police knew many residents were unaware it had been invoked.

        The curfew was similar to the one called for four days in April, when the worst riots in 33 years broke out after the shooting of Mr. Thomas.

        Mr. Luken said he called for the latest curfew at the request of safety officials. He said that Acting Safety Director S. Gregory Baker informed him that trash cans were being set on fire, described a hit-and-skip incident, told him that officers and firefighters were being assaulted and “that the streets had a similar feeling to April.”

No signs of looting
        Once again, the predominantly black neighborhood of Over-the-Rhine was hardest hit by unrest, but there was none of the looting that marked April's rioting.

        The mayor said a Wednesday night march led by Black United Front leader Rev. Damon Lynch III could have unintentionally contributed to the violence.

        Mr. Luken said Police Chief Tom Streicher told him that “the late-night marches encouraged or contributed to the criminal behavior.”

        He called it an unintended consequence and asked the Rev. Mr. Lynch to forego his nightly walk through Over-the-Rhine.

        The reverend complied, but said his New Prospect Baptist Church on Elm Street would remain open through the night.

        The Rev. Mr. Lynch called criticism from the mayor and police chief “unfair.” He said he has been walking the neighborhood every night for the past 10 weeks without incident and has actually helped to lessen violence.

        “These are the same walks that the police chief praised and Mayor Luken has been on himself,” the Rev. Mr. Lynch said. “But I guess they need someone to blame and I'm an easy target.”

        The minister said the crowd of close to 100 people that gathered at his church on Wednesday was an anomaly. A typical walk involves between 20 and 24 people.

Heimlich criticizes Lynch
        Councilman Phil Heimlich said comments by the Rev. Mr. Lynch critical of the verdict in the Roach case incited unrest. The minister said the verdict showed “black life has no value in Cincinnati.”

        On Thursday, Mr. Heimlich asked the mayor to remove the Rev. Mr. Lynch as co-chairman of the city's race relations panel.

        “It's clear that his action in holding a vigil in the midst of a volatile situation endangered people's lives and contributed to last night's unrest.”

        Mr. Luken did not respond to Mr. Heimlich.

Help from ministers
        Meanwhile, in a Thursday meeting with clergy, Mr. Luken said he asked ministers to encourage their congregations to stay inside Thursday night. He said they agreed to help.

        But the ministers also said Mr. Luken did something he has never done before.

        “He is finally listening. That is a good thing,” said the Rev. Bill Land of the Laarmsadt United Church of Christ. “He is in a listening mode.”

        Cynthia Ingram, who runs the after-school homework room at Peaslee Neighborhood Center near Liberty and Sycamore streets, said she was frustrated by Wednesday night's disturbances because “it really serves no purpose.”

        But she said she doesn't think much has changed.

        “I've been working in the area for 20 years, and I'll be here tomorrow to help these children,” she said. “That's what's really important.”

        Enquirer reporters Kevin Aldridge, Robert Anglen and Randy Tucker contributed to this report.


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