After a day of non-violent protest at the Hamilton County Courthouse and Cincinnati City Hall, a group of hundreds of activists dispersed quietly as an 8 p.m. curfew closed in on Tuesday.
The protest was a continuation of days of demonstrations and marches decrying the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and similar killings by police.
The quick resolution of the night's activities stood in contrast with the previous evening. On Monday, hundreds marched up Main Street to McMicken Avenue chanting "Black Lives Matter" and other slogans associated with the protests across the country. Behind that group, protesters joined in cars. At least one protester moved through the crowd on a dirt bike.
Minutes after the city's curfew Monday night, a large contingent of law enforcement officers — many wearing riot gear and carrying shields — closed in on the protesters on McMicken Avenue. Many marchers scattered, but police arrested those who remained in several groups.
Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac estimated that between 40 and 50 people were arrested at that scene, and some 100 were arrested overall that night. Two Cincinnati Metro buses were used to take the protesters to the Hamilton County Justice Center. That was fewer than in previous nights, when a small contingent pulled down a plaque at the Hamilton County Justice Center and threw it through a window and some businesses were vandalized in Over-the-Rhine, downtown and Clifton Heights.
The aggressive police response Monday extended, at least momentarily, to the media, when a Cincinnati Enquirer reporter was wrestled to the ground by multiple officers after attempting to approach his colleagues to document arrests. The reporter was detained for roughly half an hour but was released after calls from various Cincinnati City Council members and other officials.
The end to Tuesday's protests, however, was a different picture entirely — though that outcome wasn't evident even shortly before curfew set in. A large group of protesters was still at the courthouse 20 minutes before 8 p.m. when a man carrying a Blue Lives Matter flag paraded through the crowd, drawing a loud wave of jeers, insults and protesters following him. At one point, a man in the crowd grabbed the flag and, when its owner tried to take it back, hit him once in the face.
But organizers implored the crowd not to touch the man again, and he passed through quickly without further incident. And a few minutes later, those organizers moved through the crowd urging everyone to disperse until 1 p.m. Wednesday.
"Let's walk," one organizer yelled. "Let's go! Please! One O'Clock tomorrow! Please!"
Earlier in the day, a handful of organizers, including Tashawna Bax and Dominique Harper, had met with Assistant Police Chief Paul Neudigate during a protest at City Hall. The conversation was intense at times.
"You bring the SWAT team in every time that someone wants to protest? You're bringing the SWAT teams in every single time," Harper told Neudigate. "That for us, puts us on the offensive."
Neudigate said he'd like to find ways to de-escalate that dynamic.
Eventually, the conversation led to a fragile agreement — police would ease up enforcing curfew so quickly and aggressively if protesters agreed to go home at curfew time.
That agreement held Tuesday night.
"We kept our word, they kept theirs," he said last night as just a few protesters lingered. "It's a good first step." Neudigate acknowledged that there was "still work to do," however.
There were only a handful of curfew arrests last night, including one person outside the courthouse and a person on Liberty Street pulled over by multiple cruisers and removed from his car.
The arrests have continued to be an issue for activists, especially after a group of more than 100 arrested Sunday night was held for as long as 10 hours outdoors in a courtyard of the Hamilton County Justice Center. Videos of that confinement surfaced on social media, stirring controversy, though officials say arrestees were treated fairly.
Activists and volunteers have set up an aid station across from the Justice Center for those being released from jail.
Protests, meanwhile, will continue today at 1 p.m. at the courthouse. Another vigil against police violence will be held at the Cincinnati Police Memorial on Ezzard Charles Drive at 2 p.m. And an event will be held at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow at City Hall organized by the Black United Front, the group that advocated for Cincinnati's 2001 policing reforms following the killing of unarmed black teenager Timothy Thomas by Cincinnati Police officer Stephen Roach.
Locally, the loose group of activists organizing some of the protests have released a list of 15 demands they want to see met that would help reform law enforcement practices locally and nationally. Local demands include:
• Demilitarization of the Cincinnati Police Department, including a ban on use of assault rifles, armored trucks and other military equipment.
• Reallocation of the Cincinnati Police Department's budget to include much more money for mental health services for officers, increased de-escalation training and more body cameras for officers. All interactions between the public and police should be recorded with either body cameras or dash cameras.
• CPD should create and enforce a no-tolerance policy for use of excessive force.
• The department should increase the number of training hours it takes to become an officer, including 40 hours of cultural awareness courses and 80 hours of de-escalation training.
• Officers should be required to complete a minimum of 80 hours of community service a year in the communities they police.
• Cincinnati Public Schools and local universities should reconsider relationships they have with CPD and take into account input from teachers, students and parents.
• Greater transparency about complaints against Cincinnati police, including a comprehensive count of complaints available on the city's website.
• Release of protesters arrested during George Floyd protests in Cincinnati.
• Efforts by local and federal law enforcement to "bring Ray Tensing to justice." Tensing is the former University of Cincinnati police officer who shot and killed unarmed black motorist Sam DuBose in Mount Auburn in 2015. Multiple juries could not agree on a conviction of Tensing, and the University of Cincinnati later paid Tensing a $250,000 settlement over his termination.