Saturday, September 29, 2001

Curfew over; mayor says: Enjoy weekend

35 arrests, 27 emergency runs made on 2nd day

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A day after telling residents to stay home at night and hug their children, Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken said Friday to go out and have some fun.

        “I would just paraphrase the words of the mayor of New York, which is to go out and see a play and have dinner and go to your high-school football game and enjoy the beautiful September weekend,” he said. “Tonight there will be no curfew.”

        The mayor called off a citywide curfew, which had been in effect for two nights following the acquittal of a white police officer in the April shooting death of an unarmed African-American man who was fleeing police.

[photo] Shoppers such as Luella Turner visited Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine on Friday.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
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        “Last night was not without incident, but it was relatively peaceful,” Mr. Luken said at a news conference, where he apologized to residents for inconvenience caused by the curfew.

        He also said the city will likely not try to enforce a neighborhood-specific curfew if violence recurs.

        On Thursday, the mayor asked the city's law department to investigate whether the city could enforce a selective curfew. Lawyers said it would be legal but could result in legal challenges.

        Flanked by fire and police officials, Mr. Luken said that between 11 p.m. Thursday and 6 a.m. Friday 35 adults were arrested on curfew violations.

        While most of those arrests occurred in Over-the-Rhine, where violence broke out Wednesday, officials said most of the emergency runs were to Avondale.

        Fire Chief Robert Wright reported 101 emergency runs, of which 27 were related to unrest — mostly fires in Dumpsters and trash cans.

        Still, he said firefighters would no longer use police escorts when responding to calls, and residents said everything was normal in the neighborhood Friday afternoon.

        Children played in playgrounds. Adults sat and gossiped on their stoops. And shoppers browsed the stands at Findlay Market, the epicenter of the worst rioting Cincinnati had seen in 30 years.

        John Gaudio, 64, operates an outdoor fruit stand at Findlay Market. Over the years, he has hired many African-Americans. That's why, he said, his business was never damaged by the riots in the 1960s and in April, when protesters took to the streets over the police shooting.

        He said the violence is caused by the “2 percent” who don't care.

        Terry Collins, 32, of Westwood never thought twice about taking her two sons to Findlay Market.

        “It's quiet now,” said Mrs. Collins, an African-American who believes the April violence was heightened by the media's attention and some black protesters.

        “If you tell a kid don't do it, they're going to do it. They're planting that stuff in people's heads,” she said.

        Assistant Police Chief Ron Twitty said police will remain in a state of readiness through the weekend, but he doesn't expect further violence.

        “It's just not the same situation we had back in April,” he said. Three days of protests and rioting in April resulted in more than 800 arrests and millions of dollars in property damage.

        “The community has stepped up, and I have to applaud them.”

        Even so, Mr. Luken reiterated a request for local ministers not to hold marches through the weekend. He said police officials attributed much of Wednesday night's violence as an unintended consequence of a march led by Black United Front leader the Rev. Damon Lynch III. The Rev. Mr. Lynch has said that is unfair.

        Mr. Luken declared a state of emergency Wednesday, which enabled him to call the curfew and assume control of the police and fire divisions.

        While he had the same power in April, Mr. Luken said he didn't push the issue. This time, he made a point of assuming control.

        “I felt that the first few nights in April, I wasn't getting good information,” he said. “It is an issue of communication and accountability.”

        In April, Mr. Luken was criticized for waiting too long before declaring an emergency and calling a curfew.

        Mr. Luken said when he made Wednesday night's declaration, he thought City Manager John Shirey was out of town. He said he wanted to make sure he was getting information directly from safety officials.

        “Everything was done in consultation,” he said. “There was never an argument, never a disagreement.”

        Mr. Luken said since Wednesday's City Council meeting — where about 150 angry residents flooded council chambers — officials followed a deliberate plan for dealing with civil unrest.

        Mr. Shirey, who has said nothing about this week's curfew, made only one comment at the news conference: “We followed the plan.”

        Reporter Susan Vela contributed.

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