Thursday, April 8, 2004

Protests test council's patience

Pair ejected for using race slurs

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken asked police officers to remove two protesters who were using racial slurs at Wednesday's City Council meeting, drawing renewed calls for City Council to regain control of its chambers.

Councilman Pat DeWine proposed a rule change Wednesday that would ban disruptive people from meetings of council or its committees for 60 days.

"It's evident again today that we have to take steps to get control over what happens in these chambers," DeWine said.

"It's a game. ... People wait until the end of their two minutes to say the most outrageous thing, they get thrown out and they're right back here the next day."

Wednesday, Luken ejected Nathaniel Livingston Jr. and William Kirkland, former council candidates who are part of a small group who disrupt council meetings and harass the mayor in public. On Opening Day, for example, Kirkland and protester Kabaka Oba followed Luken the entire length of the Findlay Market parade, shouting racial slurs.

Police charged Livingston with trespassing Wednesday, saying he tried to force his way back into the chamber.

Victoria Straughn, a member of a loose-knit coalition of groups that have urged a boycott of the city since 2001, said the protests were designed to call attention to City Manager Valerie Lemmie's "three-slurs-and-you're-out" rule for city employees.

"Police officers get three times to use that word before they're fired, but I can't use it once in interacting with City Council," said Straughn, who is black.

Councilman Christopher Smitherman said he opposes the new rule. He said the problem is that City Council doesn't show enough respect to the people who come to speak.


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