Cincinnati Civil Disorders (2001)

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Beginning in early April, several incidents of civil disorder took place in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2001.

During these disturbances, some African Americans rioted in a violent manner against police officers, government leaders, and other Cincinnati residents of all races. The apparent racism in the Cincinnati Police Department caused the outbreaks. Many people disagreed as to whether or not Cincinnati police officers, as a whole, exhibited racist tendencies, but the protestors firmly believed that the police department unjustly targeted African-Americans.

The violence erupted after peaceful protests took place and typically occurred in the Over-the-Rhine district of Cincinnati. For decades, this section of the city had faced high unemployment rates, drug deals, and poverty. These protests occurred after the shooting of African-American men by Cincinnati police officers. Between 1995 and 2001, Cincinnati police officers shot and killed fifteen black men. Of the fifteen men, seven of them were carrying guns. What infuriated the critics of the police department was that officers apparently were less likely to resort to deadly force against armed white men than against armed black men. The worst of the civil unrest took place following the death of Timothy Thomas, a nineteen-year-old African-American man. Though Thomas was unarmed, police fatally shot him on April 7, 2001. The officers involved in the shooting said that they believed that Thomas carried a gun. In this case, a peaceful protest turned violent as officers moved in to establish control. The riot, which began on April 9, prompted Cincinnati mayor Charlie Luken to issue a citywide curfew.

In response to the civil disorders, Cincinnati officials conducted an extensive review of the police force, as did various agencies of the federal government, including the Department of Justice. Several officers were tried in some of the shooting deaths. The police also implemented walking patrols and neighborhood centers in predominantly African-American neighborhoods to help build trust between officers and the people that they were to protect. The Department of Justice, the Cincinnati Police Department, the Cincinnati government, the American Civil Liberties Union, and other organizations also entered into a "Collaborative Agreement," where all parties would work together to end all perceptions of bias in the Cincinnati Police Department.

Despite these efforts, many critics continued to criticize the Cincinnati city government. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People began a boycott in 2001 against Cincinnati and encouraged African Americans and their supporters not to visit or spend their money in the city. This boycott remained in effect for almost seven years.


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