The Magazine

Appeasing the Race Hustlers

A year after the riots, Cincinnati rewards rioters.

Apr 22, 2002, Vol. 7, No. 31 • By HEATHER MAC DONALD
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The greatest victims of the boycott are poor, law-abiding minorities, who can't find jobs in the city's hotels and restaurants, and who now risk paying for the riots with their lives. Cincinnati's police became less assertive after last April, having been constantly called murderers, and told that if they have "too many" law enforcement interactions with minorities, it's because they are racist. What followed was the bloodiest summer in Cincinnati history. Black men shot each other at a rate nearly 20 times higher than the rate at which Cincinnati's police officers had killed the infamous "fifteen black men."

And the crime wave has still not abated. In the first two months of 2002, crime was up 39 percent over the same period last year, but arrests were down 10 percent. Homicides may exceed last year's record-breaking number.

For this wanton destruction, Cincinnati awarded Lynch the ultimate prize on April 4, 2002: settlement of the racial profiling lawsuit, and many other goodies, just in time for the one-year anniversary of the riots. The changes in police procedures and oversight will cost up to $20 million over five years. Add to that another $50 million for redundant social services, and $1 billion in school construction, and you're talking real money, especially on top of the city's $27 million budget deficit. The corporate community has been shaken down as well, agreeing to pick up the plaintiffs' $600,000 attorneys tab, and promising 25 percent minority set-asides in a riverfront development project, notwithstanding a shortage of minority contractors.

True to form, Lynch responded with contempt to the settlement, even as he signed it. The boycott would continue, he said, until the city granted amnesty to the riot thugs and coughed up more money. As if to underscore his threats, Cincinnati's annual rhythm and blues festival--worth $25 million to the city--announced its cancellation for 2002 just two days after Lynch reaffirmed the boycott.

Most galling to Cincinnati's law-abiding citizens, however, was Lynch's glorification of the riots on their one-year anniversary. "Understand the power not just of April 7 [when Timothy Thomas was shot], but of April 9th through 11th [the riot days]," he told protesters commemorating the shooting. "The only reason you have a [mayor's race relations panel] is . . . because people hit the streets."

THE TRAGEDY of Cincinnati is that it contains a trove of responsible blacks who utterly reject such celebrations of criminality, yet the city leadership has given them no voice. "When will the city say: 'You can't negotiate wrongdoing'?" despairs Tom Jones, arguably Cincinnati's most courageous man. "It's beyond belief and understanding that the city would negotiate with Lynch. It's like paying a ransom: The more you pay, the more demands they'll place on you."

Jones has been fighting drug dealers since moving his printing business to Cincinnati in 1995, a crusade that has earned him death threats, bullets, and the vicious enmity of race protesters, who detest his vocal support for the police. "Every effort from black militant groups is to push the police out," he observes. "But what is Cincinnati going to be without the police? If you got rid of the cops for even a day, this city would be in turmoil." Jones scoffs at the notion that the police are targeting black men because of their skin color. "If you're hanging out at this particular corner at this particular time, you're going to be stopped, period," he asserts.

Pastor Ed Gaines of the Calvary Chapel is equally heartsick at the city's capitulation to "the mob." Lynch's celebration of the rioters "sends the most devastatingly negative message that could ever be: that violence is the way to justice," Gaines laments. "Someone with authority should stand up and speak the truth. If we keep on appeasing, we'll be like Pilate handing over Jesus."

The "truth" of Cincinnati, in Gaines's view, is that opportunity is available for anyone who wants to work. "We need to get to children in school and tell them: 'There's no one to hold you back but yourself, no one responsible for your own destiny but yourself. It's not the white man who's responsible.'" Unfortunately, the opposite message reigns. "Students are hearing: 'You won't be treated fairly no matter what you do,'" notes Gaines. "A lot of young people have bought into that lie, and they throw in the towel."