A Traffic Jam for Peace
At about 5:40 p.m. March 20 — the day after war began in Iraq — hundreds of anti-war protesters began gathering on Fountain Square for a planned rally. Quickly they began bunching along Fifth Street on the south side of the square and chanting and holding signs toward the car-bound commuters.
Only a few minutes later, a band of about 20 protesters broke from the main group and blocked the street.
"There it is," said one young woman. "They're doing the chain!"
The street blockaders were young and old, male and female, and they kept all four lanes of traffic halted for about five minutes.
Then two Cincinnati Police bike officers rolled in and carefully began untangling the line of people, who by now had their arms locked and were being marched around by another 20 protesters.
Within another five minutes, every protester had left the street or been escorted off. Five were arrested and either walked or dragged back to the sidewalk. The last one was CityBeat News Editor Gregory Flannery, who willingly blocked traffic and was arrested without a struggle. (See his editorial, Not in Our Name.)
Just an hour before and a block away from the street blockade, the same crowd didn't seem to have any plans except to march and to get as many drivers as possible to honk. Many did. Later, the traffic blockade turned friendly honks into angry ones.
The protest started at about 5 p.m., with hundreds of people of all ages marching around the John Weld Peck Federal Building, at one point encircling about two-thirds of the block between Fifth, Sixth, Sycamore and Main streets.
The protesters carried dozens of different signs, mostly homemade, including: "Don't attack the people of Iraq." "Peace is possible!" "Stop the violence, stop the hate." "Sixty-four percent of Baghdad residents are under 16 years old." "Thanks for nothing, Governor Bush!" "Even the Pope says no to war." "War is a defeat for humanity." "We cannot support democracy with laser-guided bombs." "Terrorism to fight terrorism?" and perhaps the most succinct, "Imperialism sucks!"
Mike Shryock, a social worker from Madeira, held that last sign above his head while standing at the corner of Fifth and Main. Why does he oppose the war?
"Because I think it's unnecessary. Because we have bigger fish to fry," including active terrorists, Shryock said. "I think (the war is) part of a Republican strategy to get re-elected."
The United States should be spending more on health care, schools and other domestic needs instead of war, he said. "I think Bush is a traitor to the American cause. He's leading us down the wrong path."
Ava Roberts, 14, opposes the war for a few reasons.
"I think war is just wrong," said the eighth grader at the School for the Creative and Performing Arts.
Roberts, holding a small sign of a bloody child, believes President Bush is just trying to get back at Hussein for his dad. "I think they should just let him be. I just don't understand why we can't be peaceful about it. It's just mostly about oil anyway. It's just greed."
Kwame Acheampong, 20, who works at Frisch's and attends the University of Cincinnati part-time, held a large purple sign reading: "I support human shields." He said he didn't need much convincing that the war was wrong because pretty much every part of U.S. foreign policy is misguided.
About 50 Sisters of Charity, a Catholic order of nuns associated with the College of Mount St. Joseph, marched with the crowd.
"Peace brings me here," said Sister Carol Brenner, 65. "I don't agree with war when there's a peaceful way to deal with the situation. Maybe we can't negotiate with him, but what we're doing to get rid of him isn't good."
New Ballpark: Good Start
Several of CityBeat's sports enthusiast staffers compared notes on their tours of Great American Ball Park during the March 22-23 open house. The consensus was the stadium looks good, though not spectacular, and much remains to be seen about how it operates on game days.
The good points: incredible playing surface; beautiful red seats with the "C" logo on aisle ends; the main scoreboard is awesome; the ticket booths are well positioned; the distance to the right field wall seems very short, so expect Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds, Jim Thome and other left-handed bombers to hit 'em out of the stadium on a fairly regular basis.
The bad points: poor finish on many of the details (maybe they'll go back and fix that later, but didn't they say the same thing about Riverfront Stadium?).
Incomplete: the concession stands are supposed to be an upgrade, but the food they were serving at the open houses looked like the same Kahn's hot dogs sitting on rollers for hours rather than actual grilled items; the "notch" doesn't seem to add anything to the overall experience — again, maybe it'll improve during the season.
Best seats: behind the right field wall; you're on top of the action, and you'll catch a lot of homers.
Worst seats: ironically, just a few sections over from the good seats are obstructed-view seats next to the riverboat homerun contraption; you can't see half of the outfield from them.
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