Friday, April 05, 2002

To boycotters, settlement satisfies few demands

By Kevin Aldridge,
and Larry Nager,

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Even in the face of a historic legal agreement that could signal sweeping reforms in the Cincinnati Police Department, organizers of the Cincinnati boycott say they won't end the call for economic sanctions until all their demands are settled.

        Leaders of the three boycott groups say the collaborative agreement is a good starting point, but it won't stop them from asking entertainers, conventions and tourists to stay away from downtown.

        While the tentative agreement addresses the issues of racial profiling and excessive use of force by police — two major concerns of boycotters — it does little to change the climate of “economic apartheid” that exists, they said.

        “We need to be clear that this is just one piece of the puzzle,” said Victoria Straughn, a spokeswoman for Concerned Citizens for Justice, one of the boycott groups. “While we think it is a good first step, we cannot applaud at this point.”

        That's because boycotters are still demanding city and corporate leaders deliver $208 million for low-income neighborhoods. They also demand, among other things, economic inclusion of African-Americans in major development projects and the settling of civil lawsuits filed by the families of two black men killed by police.

        Ms. Straughn said caution remains about the collaborative agreement.

        “Right now this is all on paper,” she said. “Once we go through the implementation stage and see the finished product, maybe then we can go back and do some evaluating.”

        Some at City Hall feel the boycott should be moot after all parties ratify the collaborative agreement.

        “It's a no-brainer,” Councilman Chris Monzel said. “There is no reason why there should be a boycott after Tuesday when this is signed and sealed, especially for the Black United Front.”

        The BUF maintains the boycott and the settlement are two separate issues.

        “The boycott was not discussed in the collaborative process,” said the Rev. Damon Lynch III, BUF president. “It wasn't an issue on the table.”

        The Black United Front, which has targeted conventions and tourism with its boycott, has focused much of its attention on issues of police brutality and judicial injustice. The Coalition for a Just Cincinnati, which is urging performers to avoid the city, has demanded more jobs, increased neighborhood development and election reform. Concerned Citizens for Justice's demands are an amalgamation of its two boycott partners.

        “I don't want to be the one to muddy the process at this point,” said the Rev. Stephen Scott, vice chairman of the coalition. “We are on the cusp of a landmark thing that actually works. I don't want to give the city or the FOP any reason to back out now.”

        Whether the settlement will dilute the boycott's message is also a question.

        “Right now, everything still remains the same,” said Jermaine Hill, a spokesman for Cincinnati's Midnight Star, the R&B band that became the first to join the boycott when it canceled a show at the 2001 Taste of Cincinnati.

        “At least they've got the first hurdle under their belts, but there's still a lot of issues that need to be resolved. We're sitting pretty much on the fence, waiting to see what's going to happen.”

        Some in the local entertainment industry are worried that the riots and boycott may have an effect similar to the 1979 Who tragedy, which kept national promoters away for years after 11 fans were killed in a pre-concert crush.

        “We're concerned about the long-term effect (of the boycott),” said Steve Loftin, president and executive director of the Cincinnati Arts Association, which manages the Aronoff Center for the Arts, Music Hall and Memorial Hall. “But we can't control the response of the people who make those decisions. Our mission is to keep shows coming to Cincinnati.”

        The CAA has been the hardest hit local arts group, losing concerts to the boycott by Bill Cosby, Wynton Marsalis and an O'Jays/Temptations package. In addition, Whoopi Goldberg dropped out of the “Unique Lives” lecture series at the Aronoff. Prince, tentatively scheduled to play Music Hall, canceled the show, citing technical problems.

        The CAA is suing boycott organizers for damages.

        Local singer and community activist Kathy Wade said the settlement is a hopeful sign.

        “I'm for the boycott, but I'm also for bringing it to resolution, bringing it to an end. If everybody agrees to this (settlement) it's unprecedented in this country. I'm elated to see this happen, but the rest of the items must be dealt with, particularly economic development.”

Related stories:
City Council prepared to ratify deal
Officers voting on proposed settlement
Adding up the costs of police settlement
Deal answers some of boycott demands

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