Sunday, April 27, 2003

Rally for law enforcement

Want peace? Call a peace officer


Have you seen the Peace Down the Way Coalition? I think it's on a milk carton, right next to the picture of the CAN Commission.


There were high hopes. When Peace Down the Way was announced in December by the Black United Front and 17 other groups, it sounded like the missing ingredient: Finally, a tablespoon of personal responsibility.

"We must do everything possible to get these killings to stop," said the Rev. Damon Lynch III, leader of the Front's boycott of Cincinnati.

They called for a "moratorium" on violence - as if thugs who kill for drugs actually care about moratoriums.

They targeted bars and restaurants to stop selling liquor on Martin Luther King's birthday. Another flop. Suddenly "personal responsibility" sounded like blaming someone else again. As if the wave of killings is caused by happy hour at Neon's.

Since Peace Down the Way was rolled out in a flurry of flashbulbs and glowing press reports and adulatorials, there have been meetings and more meetings - and the killings have continued. Nearly 30 dead this year, nearly all young black men killed by young black men.

I checked with two organizations listed as members of Peace Down the Way.

Rochelle Morton, vice president for education and youth at the Urban League, said she has been attending weekly meetings. "We didn't get here overnight. We're only three months old," she said. "There are some things you are going to hear about soon."

But Lesley Jones, chief of staff at the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission, said her impression is that very little is happening besides meetings. "We haven't really heard a whole lot from them." She said the problem is "a very big communications pothole." The Front can't push a boycott that divides the city, then bring people together to stop violence, she said. "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

As Peace Down the Way disappears down the same sinkhole that trapped the CAN commission - endless meetings, demands and "root causes" - the answer is as obvious as blood in the streets.

"How many shootings and killings do you have to have before you smell the roses and realize we have a law enforcement problem and law enforcement is going to have to bail us out of this," Tom Jones said.

While others are talking, he's doing something. Jones, a candidate for City Council, is leader of the Community Public Safety Advocate Group, formerly Avondale Public Safety Task Force. At 7 p.m. Tuesday, he expects more than 400 people from all over Cincinnati at his "Stop the Violence and Promote Healing" rally at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center auditorium. "Are you ready to stand up and be counted?" his flier asks. "Intimidation, homicide, drugs and lawlessness on our streets must end."

He is inviting the Urban League, the NAACP and mothers of murder victims, along with top cops, prosecutors and judges.

"Even Lynch," he said. "We will drop all boundaries because it will take all of us working together."

At his first rally last year, 300 people heard the emotionally wrenching plea from a brave black mother of a murder victim. She begged for more cops and tougher law enforcement.

"It's not about race," Jones likes to say. "It's about crime."

For that he has been threatened and called "Uncle Tom" on the radio. But it's plain to see who is further "down the way" to peace in Cincinnati.

E-mail or call 768-8301.

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