Cincinnati to keep curfew after calmer night
Quiet allows reflection on race relations
CINCINNATI, Ohio (CNN) - Cincinnati, Ohio, officials said Friday they would keep a curfew in effect after its first night dramatically reduced a flood of violence that left parts of the city looking like a war zone.
Violent protests erupted on Monday in the aftermath of the weekend shooting of an unarmed African-American man by a Cincinnati police officer.
"It's certainly not been a good week for Cincinnati in the eyes of the nation," said Mayor Charles Luken at a Friday news conference. "We have not done ourselves any favors in terms of our image in the last few days."
Luken declared a state of emergency on Thursday, imposing the 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew.
Police Chief Thomas Streicher said the city expected a turning point on Saturday, when a large crowd is expected for the funeral of 19-year-old Timothy Thomas, who was killed on Saturday when he fled a police officer trying to arrest him.
Police arrested 153 people overnight for curfew violations and 63 others -- including nine juveniles -- for offenses unrelated to the curfew, Streicher said.
"We had sporadic incidents, some rock and bottle throwing," said the chief. "The most serious ... was a delicatessen that was set afire last night, causing approximately $100,000 damage. There were no injuries."
But overall, Streicher said, the night "went well beyond our expectations."
"I think we can say that the citizens of Cincinnati have elected to maintain control," the chief said. "I don't want to take the credit for it as a police agency. I'd rather give (credit) to the citizens."
Calls for thorough investigations
African-American leaders, however, were skeptical of the city government's response.
"They (whites) hold all the power," said H.L. Harvey of the New Friendship Baptist Church. "We can never do anything. Thank God we got some black city council people in there now. But yet still their hands are tied. We cannot do anything at all when it comes to this government."
NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, who arrived Thursday to meet with community and city officials, said that Thomas' death -- he was the fifth African-American man to die since September while being pursued or taken into custody by Cincinnati police officers -- was symptomatic of much deeper problems.
"We've called for calm," he told CNN Friday. "We don't believe that anybody ought to be hurt or injured beyond what has happened already."
He called for restraint on the part of police officers, and said "the good ones" have an obligation to end bigotry among their fellow officers.
Mfume also called on Attorney General John Ashcroft to order a full investigation into Thomas' death and other incidents.
Ashcroft said Friday the Justice Department is evaluating a request from Luken to review the city's police department.
The FBI opened a preliminary investigation in the case Tuesday, and civil rights investigations are pending on two other recent cases in which African-American men were killed by police.
14 misdemeanor warrants, 1 dead man
Thomas was wanted on 14 misdemeanor warrants: three for driving with an expired license, four for seat belt violations, five for driving without a driver's license and two for obstruction of official business.
Officer Steve Roach shot him when Thomas, who was unarmed, tried to flee down an alley on Saturday. Roach has been placed on administrative leave.
Thomas was the 15th African-American man killed by police in Cincinnati since 1995.
"This is a young man who didn't have a record. He had warrants on him for not wearing a seat belt and things of that nature," he said. "And the question becomes: When is the deadly use of force justifiable?"
Streicher has not revealed the results of an internal investigation, which he said was completed on Wednesday.
But, he said, the number of African-American deaths at the hands of his officers is "of great concern to us as an agency."
"It's also a great concern to the community here," he said.
'The numbers are bad'
Troubled race relations have long boiled below the surface in Cincinnati, sometimes breaking out explosively.
"We used to be called a great place to raise your kids," said New Prospect Baptist Church Pastor Damon Lynch. "Nobody says that anymore. We're a small, little river town that's afraid to face its real issues. And race is our main issue."
Cincinnati officials don't disagree that the city is a troubled one.
"No matter how you look at it, we've got a problem that we've got to address and we're going to address," City Councilman John Cranley told CNN on Friday.
Cranley said, however, that the issues weren't as straightforward as some of the protesters tried to paint them.
"The numbers are bad," he said. "A lot of those times the officers were being fired upon, but the fact is that the African-American community has good reason to be frustrated."
Alicia Reese, an African-American colleague of Cranley's on the city council, said that the city's problems certainly weren't unknown.
"Unfortunately, the only time we are serious about reacting is when an incident happens," she said.
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