Curly tales of the city


Jun 14, 2001 at 2:06 pm

Si Leis: Enemy of Good Hygiene?
Remember Gandhi's aphorism? "First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win."

In Cincinnati, it works this way: First they lock you out of the bathrooms. Then they take away your homemade drums. Then they arrest you.

The little band of protesters against police violence manning a vigil at the Hamilton County Justice Center have won a lot of respect just by their persistence. Encamped in front of the jail since June 2, they have endured every rain shower and petty harassment Mother Nature and Sheriff Simon Leis Jr. could throw at them.

The sheriff's office started closing the rest rooms at the Justice Center at night because of graffiti, says Steve Barnett, spokesman for the sheriff.

"Of course, we can't say the protesters are doing it," he says.

The sheriff's office can, however, say the protesters have used sidewalk chalk for political messages. Two were arrested for defacing public property. One of them, Amanda McIlwain, 17, went right back to the sidewalk, resuming her protest, after her mother drove from Shelbyville, Ky., to spring her from jail.

Shocking behavior inside the jail
Expect very soon a lawsuit over alleged mistreatment — the protesters call it "torture" — of Streetvibes reporter David Mitchell. Charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest in Mount Adams, Mitchell was subjected to use of a stun gun — deputies call it a "stun device" — while in the jail.

Spokesman Barnett said deputies applied the electrical shock to Mitchell because he was uncooperative when deputies were moving him from one part of the jail to another.

"He wouldn't do what he was told," Barnett said. "He refused to comply. He refused to go with them. They had to struggle with him."

After a deputy was bruised during the struggle, deputies used the stun gun "to help get (Mitchell) in handcuffs," Barnett said.

Does anyone think Cincinnati City Council understands the problem yet? A week after police used chemical spray on nonviolent protesters in Mount Adams, along comes Councilman Pat DeWine complaining about the behavior of — you guessed it — angry citizens at meetings. DeWine has given the matter lots of thought, proposing rules "to protect the rights of citizens to speak freely." The rules would cover city council meetings. Peaceful protesters roughed up by police, it seems, are still on their own.

It's a holy noise, this one
At least one group of churches is praising the protesters who have taken to the streets since early April. The United Church of Christ, Assembly of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, went so far as to issue a statement saying the protesters have had to fill in where the churches have neglected to act.

"We confess our silence, as we rely upon the usual list of protesters to move the city government by speaking the truth to power," the statement says. "We have been complicit by our silence and have relied upon half truths and military tactics to 'keep the peace' rather than standing alongside our brothers and sisters who do choose to speak out and act nonviolently and justly."

The protests against Cincinnati Police have growing support from churches. More than 50 people from St. John's Unitarian Church participated June 2 in the March for Justice. St. Mark Catholic Church and eight ministers from Protestant churches endorsed the march.

Hamilton County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Carl Stich is resigning effective June 29. Stich has represented the county commissioners in some of the highest-profile recent county cases, including the Firstar Center owners' lawsuit over parking contracts, the Bengals season-ticket holders' lawsuit and the Bengals and Reds stadiums in general.

"I speak with him virtually every day about something or other," says County Administrator David Krings.

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