Monday, April 08, 2002

What's being written and said about Cincinnati




        One year after the worst race riots to strike Cincinnati since 1968, the city is squarely in the nation's spotlight again. Reporters from around the country have revisited the city to gauge the effect of the racial tension and unrest one year later. They also have examined the economic boycott against Cincinnati. Here is a sampling of what is being written and reported about the city:

        • Stephanie Simon, The Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2002

        In a mostly black neighborhood north of downtown (Cincinnati), the Rev. Peterson Mingo already has seen major change.

        He reports with delight that police officers there have been making a conscious effort to reach out and to relax their authoritarian image. ... Officers have started patrolling on foot more often so they are more accessible. They have worked with civilians to develop strategies to weed out drug pushers. The local commander even reassigned several officers who Mingo complained were harassing black youths.

        The other day, Mingo said, he saw several neighborhood kids run up to two cops, clamoring to be photographed with them.

        “There's been a lot of progress,” he concluded. “A whole lot of progress.”

        • Robert E. Pierre, The Washington Post, April 2, 2002

        A city ripped apart a year ago by the worst civil unrest since Marin Luther King Jr.'s assassination in 1968 is again roiled. This time, it's over a boycott of downtown hotels, stores, entertainment venues and restaurants. ...

        There's a war going on here, and boycott organizers — whose demands include greater police accountability and economic development in depressed communities — see themselves as liberators of the besieged while city leaders portray themselves as hostages to the whims of a vocal minority.

        Each side at times sounds desperate. In letters seeking national support, one of the chief boycott organizers wrote: “Police are killing, raping, planting false evidence, and along with the prosecutor and courts are destroying the general sense of self-respect for black citizens.” In turn, Mayor Charlie Luken denounced the boycott as "economic terrorism.'”

        • Frances X. Clines, The New York Times, April 4, 2002:

        The street protests, police confrontations and vandalizing of Cincinnati businesses brought national notoriety to the city. Mayor Luken ordered a night curfew to stem the violence and keep residents off the streets. Black civic leaders urged a boycott of the city's convention serv ices until progress could be seen in police-community relations.

        • Exchange from Hannity & Colmes, Fox News Network, March 26, 2002:

        Alan Colmes, host: “We have Whoopi Goldberg boycotting, Smokey Robinson, Bill Cosby. Do you have a philosophical problem with these people boycotting the city of Cincinnati?“

        Roy Innis, national chairman of the Congress on Racial Equality: “This is the problem I have: that we are using the very important instrument that was used in the civil rights revolution to bring about change in America.“

        Mr. Colmes: “Right.”

        Mr. Innis: “It has now been overused and misused.“

        Mr. Colmes: “But it's been very successful, hasn't it ... the boycott as an instrument of change has been very successful in the civil rights movement, has it not?“

        Mr. Innis: “In the old civil rights movement, we make very clear to people, to the public, why we were boycotting, what were the demands we were making.“

        Mr. Colmes: “All right, well, let me tell you what's gone on, because, since they have announced the boycott, Cincinnati will now participate in the mediation of a lawsuit where black residents accused the police of 30 years of harassment.

        “Voters approved a charter amendment in November to allow the city to look elsewhere for its next police chief. They can go outside the city. The first black female city manager has been hired. So there have been changes since the boycott was announced. This is positive movement, is it not?“

        Mr. Innis: “Whoopi Goldberg, it seems to me, could have spoken in Cincinnati and bring an important message to those people.”

        • Terry Kinney, Associated Press' Cincinnati bureau, March story distributed on national wires:

        Mayor Charlie Luken and others point to progress in the past year, including efforts by a Luken-appointed commission to improve education and job opportunities for blacks.

        “Cincinnati's getting a bad rap. Some of it may be fair. Most of it's not,” said Luken, who is white.

        Valerie Lemmie, Cincinnati's first black female city manager, and Alicia Reece, who also is black, are featured in a new brochure Cincinnati has distributed to hotels, tourism and convention groups to highlight the roles that prominent blacks occupy in the city.

        Luken and Reece say the boycott is wrong and hurts employment opportunities for residents. The Cincinnati Arts Association, operator of three major arts venues in the city, sued several boycott advocates in March demanding almost $600,000 in damages.

        One resident who opposes the boycott is Babe Baker, 86, who came to Cincinnati 75 years ago. He operates a supermarket and bar and owns commercial real estate.

        He said police are unfairly criticized when they try to fight crime in predominantly black neighborhoods like his in Avondale. And, he said he doesn't understand claims that the city's blacks are denied economic opportunity.

        “When I first came to Cincinnati, you couldn't go into the hotels, the restaurants. All of that has changed now,” Baker said. "Progress has been made, the whole situation is different.”

        • Excerpt from “Spotlight on America” report, The CBS Evening News With Dan Rather, April 5, 2002:

        CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers: “Many here feel Cincinnati has already paid a high price by being singled out as a poster child for racial intolerance. ...

        “The mayor believes there's been more real dialogue between the races here in the past year, than in the hundred before.”

        Mayor Charlie Luken: “What happened in Cincinnati can happen in any city in America. I suspect that there will come a time in the not too distant future where people are coming here to see how we handled our issues.”

        Ms. Bowers: “When that time comes, he hopes this city will be seen as an example of what's right, instead of what's wrong.”

       



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