Thursday, December 11, 2003

Youths protest Taser buy

By Denise Smith Amos
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Corie Ulmer, 18, (from left) Trevon Adams, 8, and William Rankins, 18, lead chants and use wooden spoons to beat on plastic buckets as they gather outside City Hall.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
DOWNTOWN - About two dozen young people and adults urged City Council members Thursday to reconsider issuing Tasers to police - and to find other ways to reduce violent encounters in the wake of a Northside man's death while struggling with officers last month.

Youth Against Racism, a new group of mostly Cincinnati-area teens, spoke to City Council as part of a peaceful protest.

William Rankins, an 18-year-old senior at the Cincinnati Life Skills Academy, told council that the $1 million for Tasers could be better spent on education.

"Tasers are going to ... make things worse," he said. "You can tase a man to death just like you can beat a man to death or shoot him to death."

Nathaniel "Skip" Jones, 41, died Nov. 30 in a struggle with six Cincinnati police officers in a White Castle parking lot in Avondale.

The demonstration was to be an avenue for young people to respond peacefully, said Traven La Botz, a 16-year-old Walnut Hills sophomore.

"The police department is an expression of the city, which is segregated," he told City Council. "Young people are not willing to stand by and watch while our city falls apart."

The youth group circulated hundreds of petitions Monday in area high schools, urging students to walk out of classes during lunch and meet downtown for the protest.

But turnout was small. They gathered on Fountain Square, donned black ribbons and marched to City Hall in a cold drizzle.

La Botz said school officials warned that anyone leaving school without their parents would be considered a truant. Several students said principals threatened them with detention and even three-day suspensions.

"On the one hand, schools are teaching us the power of the civil rights movement; but here, when students get the chance to express themselves, they tell us we're going to be punished," said La Botz.

It's unclear how many students face punishment.


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