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May 2001 • Vol 1, No. 1 •

Cops Riot in Cincinnati

By Peter Clark and Margaret O'Kain

CINCINNATI: On April 7, Timothy Thomas, an unarmed black teenager, was shot and killed here by a white police officer. The victim’s friends said that he was leaving the apartment he shared with his fiancee and his 3-month-old son to buy cigarettes at a store nearby when he was shot. This was the fourth shooting since November 2000 and the fifteenth Black man killed by police in various parts of the city since 1995. The killing of Thomas sparked four days of spontaenous protests in opposition to police murder and "racial profiling" in the, predominately Black, Over-the-Rhine district in downtown Cincinnati.

In response to these protests a massive police presence, including state troopers and sheriff's deputies went out of control (rioted). They fired rubber bullets and bean bags (a misnomer since these "beanbags" are filled with shotgun pellets) from shotguns to put down protests and arrested more than 700 people. On April 12 , Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken declared a state of emergency and imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew throughout the city of 331,000, which ended on April 16th.

A glaring example of "racial profiling", was the harrassment of Timothy Thomas during the past year. Eleven times since March 2000, Thomas was stopped by nine different Cincinnati police officers. Five were white, and four were black. All cited him for small-time traffic violations while he was driving his green, four-door 1978 Chevy.

At the time of his death, Mr. Thomas was wanted for 12 misdemeanor traffic citations, mostly for driving without a license, and two outstanding warrants for running from two other policemen. This time they killed him as he tried to run away.

The citations don't say what first caused the officers to notice Mr. Thomas or the Chevy and stop him. That lack of information leaves police critics saying there can be only one reason: racial profiling.

In protest of police profiling, more than 150 people packed the Law and Public Safety Committee held in the Cincinnati City Council chambers, to express, their outrage, .members of the audience held signs declaring:

"Stop Killing Us or Else," "Racism Will Not Be Tolerated" and—alluding to allegations police use racial profiling in traffic stops—"Wear Seat Belt or Be Executed."

The police violence in Over-the-Rhine has underscored its poverty. Black leaders say residents feel left out when they see new construction in Cincinnati's downtown and along the Ohio River, site of two new professional sports stadiums adjacent thier neighborhood.

This has been the state of inner-city Blacks for over a century. In 1967 Martin Luther King describe the conditions of the inner cities and Black ghettos as a “lonely island of poverty surrounded by an ocean of material prosperity,” and Black people living in a “triple ghetto of race, poverty, and human misery.”

According an April 15 article in the Cincinnati Enquirer, one eyewitness to the police rampage was Cecil Thomas, a former police officer who leads the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission. “Thomas was at Elm and Liberty streets on Saturday afternoon after Timothy Thomas' funeral. He said he was thinking about how lucky the city was that no rioting broke out after the services for the man shot April 7 by a Cincinnati police officer."

The Enquirer goes on to state that, "He saw three Cincinnati cruisers and one Ohio State Highway Patrol car drive up. Officers and troopers jumped out, he said, fired into a small crowd that 'wasn't doing anything.' They then got back into their cars and were gone in seconds. ‘“

“'I knew how hard we had worked to keep these people calm,” he said Sunday. ‘I'm just hoping that there's some (provocation) that I might've missed.’ Jahcol Lowry, 7, was hit by a police beanbag at Liberty and Elm Streets.’"

"The police division released no new information about the incident Sunday, although more is expected today. The division's internal affairs unit started investigating immediately, Mr. Thomas said. FBI agents quizzed witnesses too, including photographer Tom Uhlman of Camp Washington, who was on the scene working for the Associated Press.

"Neither Mr. Uhlman nor Mr. Thomas heard any warnings before the shots. Division officials have said officers generally warn crowds to disperse before shooting at them."

Malcolm X was the first to call these riots “rebellions against police riots”. It was his view that the inner cities were time bombs that could go off after any incident of this nature. He pointed out that when the police actions detonate these explosions, they are a release of power and force without direction or purpose. One of his aims was to organize this power and point it in the direction of the white capitalist establishment.

The murder of Timothy Thomas is but another example of “legal lynchings” by the police forces of this country. This violence goes hand and hand with the increase in “hate crimes” across the land. Police violence and “hate crimes” are part of the overall attack upon the gains made by the Civil Rights Movement.

“Racial profiling” is nothing but a polite term for the historic police subjugation of the Black community in this country by the police and other armed forces of the state.

At the end of the Civil War, Police and Klu Klux Klan, in conjuction with the Democratic Party and non-radical Republicans, used force and violence to restore the property rights of the former slave owners and to overthrow Reconstruction. This led to the institutionalization of legal segregation, Jim Crow, in the South and de facto segregation throughout the country.

From that time to the present, police violence has been and is a necessary institution of the ruling class of the United States to enforce and intimidate the Black minority and other oppressed minorities in this country.

Today, Jim Crow does not legally exist, but we are witnessing the drive of the ruling rich to make de facto Jim Crow the law of the land.

As the capitalist class and their Black and white politicians are leading a war on those in poverty, they are turning prisons and the welfare system (workfare) into institutions of forced labor (de facto slavery). At the same time they are systematically destroying affirmative action and reinstitutionalizing unequality in employment, housing, and education for the Black masses. Police violence is necessary to this process of resubjugation of the Black community.

In order to stop this process, it is necessary to drop support to the two capitalist parties and de facto support to this racist government and return to the mass action strategy of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s in opposition to the government. Such a strategy could lead to Black Control of the Black communities and the end of the police state in that community.




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