News: Police Act Good

Officers stand by as citizens exercise their rights

Oct 25, 2001 at 2:06 pm
Jymi Bolden

David Mitchell denounces police violence.

Protesters gathered Oct. 22 on Fountain Square. That's not news; it's happened a lot this year.

But this is news: The Cincinnati Police Division didn't try to break up the nonviolent demonstration.

About 100 protesters — watched by 19 police officers — gathered for speeches denouncing police brutality, part of a nationwide observance on the theme, "Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation."

The protest coincided with the start of the trial of Cincinnati Police Officer Robert Jorg, charged with involuntary manslaughter and assault. Jorg is one of two officers indicted in connection with the death of an unarmed man, Roger Owensby Jr.

"It seems as though the police department has seen fit to wage war on unarmed citizens," said Rev. Stephen A. Scott. "The police department seems to have the need to act as judge, jury and executioner."

Addressing workers on lunch break on the square, Scott said police violence should concern them, too.

"If this trend continues, tomorrow it may be you," he said.

Dick Wiesenhahn of Blue Ash said he never thought about police brutality until he saw it firsthand, during protests downtown against the TransAtlantic Business Dialogue (TABD).

"I became involved because of TABD," Wiesenhahn said. "I saw people getting sprayed with Mace and pushed around by cops. That's when I became aware as an ordinary citizen. I was not aware of police brutality until I saw it happen to other people." (See The 12-Second Warning issue of Nov. 23-29, 2000.)

Victoria Straughn, chair of the Coalition of Concerned Citizens for Justice, roused the crowd by saying protests must continue.

"Cincinnati, you must know that the world is still watching," Straughn said. "They want to know what you are going to do. We've got to continue to fight, whether it's fighting police brutality or fighting homelessness. We cannot go to sleep at this time."

In Cincinnati, police have caused violence instead of preventing it, according to David Mitchell, who was recently acquitted of charges stemming from a protest in Mount Adams — only to be convicted of obstructing official business for non-cooperation in the jail.

"We're sick and tired of being victimized by a police department that's out of control," Mitchell said. "They've sparked wars in the streets."

Sheila Olvera of Hendersonville, N.C., whose husband was killed by police, said racial and other types of profiling by police have led to harassment and brutality.

"Ever since the government waged the war on drugs, they've waged a war on our youth, making it a crime to listen to music they like and to dress as they choose," Olvera said.

Minister Malik of Detroit, national president of the Black Panther Nation, urged participants to take martial-arts and weapons training to defend against police. He also urged support for the boycott of Cincinnati by civil rights groups.

"We need to boycott Cincinnati," Malik said. "Shut this city down. No justice? No profit!"

In the face of Malik's provocative speech, an impromptu sidewalk march to the Hamilton County Courthouse and even the spectacle of bra-less hippie chicks wiggling in police officers' direction — "Shake your booty for justice! Shake your booty for peace! Shake your booty against the racist police!" — the officers didn't make any arrests, didn't use chemical spray on nonviolent protesters and didn't fire beanbag missiles or rubber bullets.

Sometimes protests work. ©