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Cincinnati Rally Urges Justice for Blacks

April 08, 2002|From Associated Press

CINCINNATI — A year after an unarmed black man was shot and killed by a white police officer, hundreds of protesters gathered downtown to mark the anniversary and demand the city do more to hold police accountable for their actions against blacks.

Fountain Square was filled with people listening to speeches by civil rights activists and relatives of Timothy Thomas, whose shooting led to the city's worst rioting since the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination in 1968. Officer Stephen Roach was acquitted in Thomas' death.

The city says much has changed since Thomas was killed, but black activists disagree. They say the city still has not done enough to help black residents economically and that the rights of blacks continue to be violated.

The Rev. Damon Lynch III, head of Cincinnati Black United Front, urged residents to work for reforms to curb what he called excessive use of force by police and to ensure justice for blacks.

"History shows us if there is no pressure, there is no change."

After the rally, several hundred people marched to City Hall, where they rang a small bell a dozen times to mark the months that have passed since Thomas, 19, was shot as he fled police on misdemeanor charges.

Police on horseback escorted the crowd, which continued the march for five blocks to police headquarters. There were no arrests or violence reported.

Black activist William Kirkland organized the rally to focus attention on justice, police brutality and economic exclusion of blacks here.

City and business leaders say much has been done in the last year to boost education and job opportunities for blacks, including employment training and funding to revitalize poor neighborhoods.

Dan La Botz, an assistant professor of history at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, who helped organize the march, said police haven't taken responsibility for past infringements on the rights of blacks.

"We think people should understand that they've been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century," he said of city leaders and police. "We want to claim that victory for the people of Cincinnati."

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