One man's protest emboldens Ohio city to fight drug violence

Jesse Lowe began a public protest against drugs in March, spurring new activism.

J.D. Pooley/ap
Protest: Jesse Lowe stood silently by himself holding a sign, 'Drugs Bring Death.'

Jesse Lowe stood silently by himself holding a cardboard sign with three words scrawled in black marker: "Drugs Bring Death." His eyes darted up and down the intersecting streets, watching for trouble. He also prayed, asking God to protect him and touch the hearts of the drug dealers glaring at him from across the street.

Mr. Lowe's solitary protest, which began in March, has drawn together black and white, rich and poor in a city simmering with anger since a white police officer shot and killed a black woman and wounded her baby during a drug raid.

Manufacturing still plays a vital role in Lima, a city of 40,000, but the factories that once turned out buses, locomotives, and tanks have closed or cut jobs. Selling drugs has become a more lucrative option than a lot of other jobs, prompting an increase in drug-related crime: two fatal drug-related shootings; two cases of heroin overdose in March; and six drive-by shootings in April. The police shooting in January magnified the trouble.

The son of a junkie, Lowe didn't need anyone to tell him the damage drugs have inflicted.

Since his first solitary protest in March, upwards of 100 people have shown up at many of the nine rallies he's put together, waving "Drugs Bring Death" signs. They've handed out thousands of stickers, T-shirts, and signs that now blanket the city midway between Toledo and Dayton. A billboard company donated space on four signs, and businesses have supplied food for the rallies.

Bob Horton, a minister, has noticed a change in the neighborhood.

"People are calling in more when they see something," he said. "They didn't used to do that."

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