Cover Story: Useful Myths

Everything you thought you knew about the riots is wrong

Apr 5, 2006 at 2:06 pm
Jymi Bolden

The Rev. Damon Lynch III helped Cincinnati Police keep the peace.

Myth: The riots were a week of widespread lawlessness.

Fact: Of 837 arrests, 623 were for nothing more serious than curfew violations. Sixty people were charged with breaking and entering, 28 with aggravated rioting, two with receiving stolen property, one with carrying a concealed weapon and one with ethnic intimidation.

Myth: City council didn't support the police.

Fact: City council's failure to speak out against Timothy Thomas' death, deferring to a pending investigation, fueled anger among African Americans. Not long after the uprising, council agreed to hire 75 more cops.

Myth: Thomas' death was his own fault; he shouldn't have run from police.

Fact: Of the 14 warrants and capiases Thomas was wanted on, eight were for operating a motor vehicle without a license and four were for seat belt violations — indications that he was a target of racial profiling, according to critics. Two of the warrants were for failure to appear in court. But Thomas appeared in court 19 times over three months in 2000 and served 16 days in jail; court records show he believed he had served his sentence and the matter was over.

Myth: Radical troublemakers and young thugs flooded the streets.

Fact: Ministers and community organizers played a major role in the demonstrations and in keeping them from becoming violent. The United Church of Christ Assembly of Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky issued a promise to work with the Black United Front.

Myth: A curfew put the whole city under lockdown.

Fact: The curfew wasn't equally enforced. Establishments in Mount Adams and Hyde Park stayed open while people in inner-city neighborhoods were rounded up en masse. There were actually two curfews, the second one coming Sept. 27, after Officer Stephen Roach was acquitted.