Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cincinnati Riots Led to Long Suffering

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cincinnati Riots Led to Long Suffering

Article excerpt

St. Louis residents can hope that the region won't follow the route of Cincinnati, another Midwestern river town that saw racially charged protests and riots, in 2001.

As in Ferguson, the Cincinnati protests began after police shot an unarmed black teenager. He was the 15th black person killed by police there in the previous five years, and the last three were unarmed, said the Rev. Damon Lynch, a black minister who helped lead a subsequent boycott.

The protests and rioting started in the run-down Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, but spread into downtown.

"It really shook up the psyche of Cincinnati," Lynch said.

That psyche took a long time to heal.

"You had the city leaders in denial, saying there's no racial profiling in Cincinnati," he said. "We were marching every day after the unrest, always peacefully."

Local black leaders launched a boycott. Bill Cosby and Wynton Marsalis canceled appearances. A music festival moved to Detroit. National Urban League and Progressive National Baptists pulled out of conventions.

"The boycott really hurt Cincinnati," Peter Bronson, a former columnist for the Cincinnati Enquirer, and author of "Behind the Lines: Untold Stories of the Cincinnati Riots."

"It was pretty ugly," Bronson said.

The Cincinnati police, upset by criticism and federal monitoring, launched a work slowdown.

"Police were working back-to-back shifts, risking their lives to save the city and never got thanks. Instead, they were demonized," Bronson said.

The attitude became known as "drive-by policing." Arrests fell, and crime rose. "The courthouse was like a ghost town. They weren't bringing cases." Within three months of the riot, shootings rose 300 percent.

The lesson Bronson draws: "If you tell the police to back down, they will."

People were afraid to go downtown for entertainment. The Main Street district, an area of bars and nightclubs, "basically died after the riots and never came back," Bronson said. The Maisonette, a locally famous restaurant with a 5-star rating from Mobil Travel Guide, closed down. …

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