In order to comply with Mayor John Cranley's citywide curfew — in effect from 9 p.m.-6 a.m. last night — Metro suspended its bus service. Tonight's curfew begins at 8 p.m. and service will cease accordingly.
The curfew did not just apply to people on the streets, but also those in cars, on motorcycles or other vehicles. But city officials, members of public safety forces, emergency personnel, health care professionals, essential workers, those experiencing homelessness or local government officials engaged in lawful duties were exempt from the order.
So, if you happened to be any of those above who relied on the tax-funded bus system for transportation, you had to find another means of getting around last night (and tonight). Like, if you were an essential worker whose shift ended after 9 p.m., you would suddenly be without your regular transport option.
But, later in the night, the Cincinnati Police Department and the city started using those out-of-operation Metro buses for another purpose: to transport arrested protesters to the Hamilton County Justice Center.
According to our reporting, around four buses were used. And around 100 of the 307 arrested last night were held outdoors in a courtyard at the Hamilton County Justice Center.
Some of the people arrested (for curfew violations) said via social media posts that they went many hours without food, water or restroom facilities. Cranley challenged that assertion.
"It is the case that people had access to food and water and facilities" Cranley said. "But there were a lot of people and limited supplies. We're not suggesting it was a pleasant experience. It was not."
Here is Metro's statement regarding the use of its buses:
SORTA’s Board leadership, in compliance with the direction of Mayor John Cranley, is permitting Metro to be used as transport by the police department during local protests.
As a publicly funded entity, Metro supports and values its riders and the people of this city, who are the essence of its operation. We share their abhorrence of violence in all forms. We seek always to make decisions that keep our employees and riders safe.
Metro’s bus drivers, who are represented by the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 627, have elected to abstain from operating buses during the protests. We stand behind our operators and respect that this is their right. We will be using non-union supervisors to operate those vehicles.
As part of its efforts to keep operators and riders safe, Metro also enacted service changes to adhere to the city’s 9 p.m. curfew Sunday night and Monday night. If the city of Cincinnati extends the curfew, Metro will adhere for the safety of all.
Throughout its nearly 50-year history, Metro has always strived to support the safety of its drivers, riders and the public at large. From facilitating the transport of citizens to and from the city center for large public gatherings to being an active participant in training with law enforcement and regional hospitals for mass casualty, severe weather or natural disaster events.
We will continue to do our best to balance all competing demands in a safe and compassionate manner and continue to make decisions that best support our community, employees, riders and our city leadership.
An important note: The buses were not driven by members of Metro's Amalgamated Transit Union Local 627.
"Our buses are not for hauling people arrested. And I'm not supporting that," said Troy Miller, President/Business Agent of ATU Local 627.
In a statement released by the ATU Local 627, they say they "refused to have their members transport arrested demonstrators in city buses from the George Floyd protests in downtown Cincinnati, after Mayor John Cranley had asked the union to do so."
"The SORTA buses used during last night's protests were driven by non-ATU members," the release reads.
In the release, Miller is quoted as saying, "We condemn the tragic killing of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police and respect the rights of the people of Cincinnati to protest this police brutality and racial profiling. We refuse to put our bus operators in danger by being forced to drive buses to the protests to take arrested demonstrators to jail."