Tuesday, April 8, 2003

Boycott demands consolidated

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Rev. Damon Lynch III speaks about the boycott Monday night at New Prospect Baptist Church in Over-the-Rhine.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
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African-Americans in Cincinnati don't want stadiums and a slavery museum on the Ohio River. They want more jobs, black teachers and better housing, a leader of the effort told an audience of 200 supporters Monday night in Over-the-Rhine.

"We (black people) never asked for a museum on the river," the Rev. Damon Lynch III said from the pulpit of his New Prospect Baptist Church. "We asked for housing in the 'hood."

Lynch, who also heads the Cincinnati Black United Front, joined with the First Coalition for a Just Cincinnati and Concerned Citizens for Justice to organize a "Cincinnati Sanctions Summit II" Monday.

He and other boycott leaders came up with a new combined list of demands, including a complete reform of the way City Council members are selected, $1.5 billion for inner-city development projects and programs to benefit African-Americans and the hiring of more black teachers.

Tracy Greenlee and Darlene Trollinger, both of Northside, applaud Lynch.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
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The consolidated list was similar to one released by the groups a month ago.

Boycott leaders said they decided to form one list after some residents complained that the different groups and demands were creating confusion. The groups did not present a complete list of demands Monday but rather a one-page summary that highlighted five areas: economics, health, education, politics and governance and civil rights and equal justice.

They blasted city officials for their "arrogance and idiocy" and the media for not reporting all the facts surrounding the boycott.

About a dozen protesters, many from the Coalition for a Just Cincinnati - a boycott splinter group - protested in front of the church. Amanda Mayes, co-chair of that group, has said the list of demands presented at the meeting is not endorsed by her group, which has its own list of demands that the city must meet.

Rev. Stephen Scott, co-chair of the First Coalition for a Just Cincinnati, called the protest in front of the church "foolishness" conducted by "our bad little kids."

Sanctions Summit II came on the two-year anniversary of the fatal police shooting of Timothy Thomas, an unarmed 19-year-old African-American who was fleeing police. Following the forum, the boycott groups and several supporters held a candlelight vigil in remembrance of Thomas in the Over-the-Rhine alley where he was killed.

About 50 people attended that observance.

No City Council members attended the meeting, which was open to the public. City officials have been critical of the boycott, saying its list of demands is too long, too expensive, unreasonable and beyond the scope of City Council to rectify.

Mayor Charlie Luken said the new combined demands would not soften his stance on negotiating with boycotters. He said the groups behind the boycott continue to ignore the city's efforts to make progress.

"It seems like every month we are getting a new set of demands and every time the list seems to get more expansive and less realistic," Luken said.

Among the demands:

• Change the city charter to have elections of City Council members by "districts" or "proportional representation" to assure the political and economic interests of black neighborhoods are equitably represented.

• Establish workforce development programs that would help recovering drug addicts and ex-convicts get jobs with "meaningful, livable wages."

• Settle civil lawsuits of black families whose sons were killed in altercations with Cincinnati police.

• Increase the number of African-American teachers - especially males.

• Require that newly hired city employees reside in the city.

• Request a civil rights investigation by the Department of Justice of the city and Hamilton County prosecutors office and implement recommended remedies to correct the effects of past and present discrimination.

• Request a civil rights investigation by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) of the discriminatory pattern and practices in the city's use of federal, state and local funds in its Housing and Community Development programs.

Boycott leaders said they would soon present a full list of demands to the city, Hamilton County Commissioners, Cincinnati Business Committee and "all others who run this city." They also emphasized they were not looking for "handouts or welfare."

"We are only asking for what everybody else gets - a return on the taxes that we have paid for years," said Dr. Stanley Broadnax, a former city health commissioner and boycott supporter. "As black taxpayers we have had our taxes collected from us, but never reinvested in our communities."

E-mail kaldridge@enquirer.com

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