Cincinnati takes stock, one year after the riots

A year after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man led to the city's worst riots in decades, the city's police union approved a proposed settlement of a lawsuit that accused officers of harassing blacks.

On Sunday, hundreds of demonstrators had marched through the city chanting "No justice, no peace," protesting what they called an enduring racial divide in the city.

The City Council and the Black United Front already had approved the tentative settlement, which would create an independent agency to investigate complaints against the police and institute reforms in police procedures. The city admitted no wrongdoing.

The American Civil Liberties Union was expected to vote later yesterday on whether to accept the proposal. If any party rejects the settlement, all sides could agree to renegotiate a deal, or the lawsuit would go to trial.

The city reached a separate agreement with the Justice Department last week on the federal government's review of police operations. The Fraternal Order of Police vote was 62 percent in favor of the agreement and 38 percent against, said Roger Webster, president of the FOP's Queen City Lodge 69.

On Sunday, police gave the demonstrators a wide berth at the gatherings at City Hall, police headquarters and in the alley where Timothy Thomas, 19, was shot on April 7, 2001, as he fled from officers who tried to arrest him.

"Here we are a year later and not much has changed. I guess the city didn't think we were serious. Are we serious?" Victoria Straughn of the Coalition of Concerned Citizens for Justice asked the cheering protesters.

Dozens of people were injured and more than 800 were arrested in the three days of violence that followed Thomas' death. Officer Stephen Roach was acquitted on criminal charges in connection with the shooting.

City and business leaders said they have spent the past year trying to boost education and job opportunities for blacks, including employment training programs and funding to revitalize poor neighborhoods. Activists disagree, contending the city has not done enough to help black residents economically and that the rights of blacks continue to be violated.

Among the speakers at Sunday's rally was Thomas's mother, Angela Leisure.

"I do not advocate violence of any kind. Nor do I have malice, hate, or vengeance in my heart," she said. "I implore everyone – community members, leaders, and the police – to work together to foster a sense of unity and peace, for it is under these conditions that we will see justice."

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