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Cincinnati mayor declares state of emergency

Luken
Mayor Luken at news conference today  

CINCINNATI, Ohio (CNN) -- The mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio, Charles Luken, has declared a state of emergency and announced a citywide curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.

The move comes in the wake of violent demonstrations over the police shooting of an unarmed black man.

"We cannot tolerate the lawlessness any longer," Luken told a news conference.

Only people going to and from work will be allowed on the streets. Others "should stay in their homes and pray," Luken said.

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The announcement was made after a Cincinnati police officer was shot Wednesday night.

Police Lt. Ray Ruberg said it appears the officer's bulletproof vest took the brunt of the shot. He did not know the officer's condition.

Youths reinvaded several stores that had previously been looted in Over-the-Rhine, a poor and predominantly black district just north of downtown.

"I think the black citizens are tired and scared, I think the white citizens are tired and scared," Luken said. "There's gunfire going on here like you might hear in Beirut. It's dangerous and it's getting more dangerous."

A man interrupted Luken at the news conference to ask whether the mayor was ready to meet with a group calling itself the New Black Panthers. He was pulled out of the room after shouting that the mayor was a "liar."

"That's the kind of incivility we've been dealing with," Luken said.

The shooting of the officer came after the third day of anger in which protesters looted buildings and set fire to a market, threw rocks and bottles at police, and attacked motorists, police said.

The unrest stemmed from the Saturday killing of an unarmed black man by police -- the fifth African-American killed by Cincinnati police in seven months.

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Police block a street in Cincinnati on Tuesday where people roamed the area breaking windows in a protest over the police shooting of an unarmed black man  

Ruberg said more than 65 people had been injured in the violent demonstrations since Tuesday afternoon, and nearly 40 people had been arrested. Police in riot gear fired bean bags, rubber bullets and tear gas at rioters.

Luken canceled a City Council meeting Wednesday, fearing more rioting.

"There's a great deal of frustration within the community, which is understandable. We've had way too many deaths in our community at the hands of Cincinnati police," Luken said.

"I'm not asking anyone not to be frustrated, but to just realize in the short-term someone could get hurt," he added.

Demonstrators broke into small groups, and some set trash bins ablaze in a neighborhood bordering downtown Cincinnati. By early Wednesday morning there had been at least 39 arrests associated with the demonstrations and violence, according to Cincinnati police.

Charges range from looting and disorderly conduct to inciting a riot and theft.

Ruberg said police had put in place civil disturbance procedures before the Tuesday night riots had broken out, and more police officers were on the streets.

"We're hoping that community leaders come forth and talk to individuals, to try to convince them that civil disobedience, disorder and damage is not the way to get your message across," Ruberg said.

Tensions had been running high in the city after the death Saturday morning of Timothy Thomas, 19, who was shot while fleeing police. Thomas was wanted for a variety of minor misdemeanors, such as not wearing a seat belt.

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Timothy Thomas was fatally shot Saturday, April 7, as he ran from a police officer trying to arrest him on 14 warrants  

The unrest began Monday night, when demonstrators broke out 28 windows at Cincinnati's City Hall. Tuesday afternoon, about 150 demonstrators -- young people, both black and white -- marched through city streets, overturning news racks and breaking windows, said Gina Ruffin Moore, communications director for City Manager John Shirey.

Tuesday's demonstrators never made it to City Hall, where police ringed the building with shields.

Fresh rioting began at dusk Tuesday, when arsonists set fire to the Findlay Market, an open-air market in Over-the-Rhine, the neighborhood where Thomas was shot, authorities said.

The disturbances began Monday after a meeting between Cincinnati's Public Safety Committee and local NAACP President Norma Hope Davis over the shooting.

"We're trying to help express community outrage and make sure this doesn't happen again," Davis said.

Community leaders, local ministers, members of the NAACP and elected officials met Tuesday night to discuss the situation. A prayer vigil was also held in Over-the-Rhine.

The FBI opened a preliminary civil rights investigation in Thomas' case Tuesday after talking with the chief of police, said FBI spokesman Ed Boldt.

Civil rights investigations are pending on two other cases, including one in which a suspect being arrested last November struggled with officers and died of asphyxiation.

State prosecutors have indicted two officers in that case, Boldt said.

Ruberg could not comment on reports that Thomas appeared to be reaching for a gun, saying that aspect of the case was under investigation. He said a police video relating to the incident had been subpoenaed by county prosecutors, but he did not know what the tape contained.



RELATED STORIES:
Protesters loot, set fires in Cincinnati
April 10, 2001

RELATED SITES:
Cincinnati Enquirer
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

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