From Ohio History Central
Cincinnati is generally recognized as the conservative heart of Ohio. Yet, for three days in 1884, Queen City citizens transformed their city into a war zone of deadly magnitude. From March 28 through March 30, 1884, law enforcement officers and Ohio National Guardsmen engaged in intense street fighting with mobs of Cincinnati residents that left more than forty people dead and over one hundred injured.
The Cincinnati Courthouse Riot was rooted in a corrupt political system that failed to control crime, which was rampant in the city during the late 19th century. Political leaders earned reputations for controlling elections and manipulating judges and juries in return for personal gain. Violent crime grew to such proportions in the 1880s that the ''Cincinnati Enquirer'' referred to the Queen City as a "College of Murder". By March 1884, Cincinnati residents had had enough.
The event that precipitated the riot was the murder trial of William Berner. In a high profile case, Berner stood accused of beating his employer to death in the act of stealing $285. When the jury convicted him of manslaughter, instead of murder, the judge called the decision "a damned outrage" and the irate crowd packing the courtroom threatened to lynch the jury. On Thursday, March 27, the newspapers called for a meeting of citizens the next evening to condemn the verdict.