Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Group assaults concern mayor

By Gregory Korte,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Alarmed by recent assaults in Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken wants the city's Human Relations Commission to help determine whether the attacks are racially motivated.

        The July 18 assault on a 49-year-old construction worker at 14th and Walnut streets is most disturbing, the mayor said. Eldon Sumberg of Hyde Park suffered a broken nose after he and a co-worker chased a group of teens who they said stole tools from a construction site. A 22-year-old man, one of as many as 20 attackers, was arrested that day.

        “We've got people doing what I asked them to do, what I want to happen in Over-the-Rhine. They're rehabbing buildings for people to live and work in,” the mayor said . “And then one of them gets put in the hospital. This is serious.”

        But Mr. Luken said there have been less serious and less publicized assaults that apparently involved groups of young black men.

        “Based on what has been reported, there have been attacks on innocent people by a gang of young people,” Mr. Luken said. “These crimes have been alleged to be hate crimes, but I haven't interviewed any witnesses so I don't know. What I'm saying is this: This is a police issue, but there are also human relations issues.”

        Cecil Thomas, director of the Human Relations Commission, said he can't be sure whether the assaults were racially motivated. But he said the attacks “have the flavor of a hate crime.”

        “We're hearing reports that there's a group of kids — not kids, but young adults, black males — who are assaulting people,” he said. “What we need to figure out is, what is the problem? Is it a hate crime, or is it a band of youths just jumping on everybody?”


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