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Cincinnati-not a riot, a rebellion
EVENTS IN Cincinnati, Ohio, last week lifted the lid on the horrendous racism and injustice that exists in the United States. Police shot dead yet another unarmed black man. This time it was 19 year old Timothy Thomas.
His death is the latest in a long line of outrages that includes the beating of black motorist Rodney King, the police shooting of black Haitian immigrant Amadou Diallo, and many others. Three days of rioting followed the shooting of Timothy Thomas, a curfew was imposed and a state of emergency declared.
The police then shot at the crowds who attended Timothy Thomas's funeral last Saturday with their latest weapon, beanbags loaded with metal shot. "They just pulled up and started shooting at us," said a woman as she sobbed in the alley into which she had run. "The city should still be burning after this," said another.
Those shot at after the funeral were a seven year old black girl, her 11 year old cousin, a 34 year old white woman and a 50 year old black man. The mother of the seven year old girl said, "We weren't doing anything except walking to a barbecue store when this police car pulled up and the cops jumped out and started firing."
Timothy Thomas wasn't doing anything either-except running away. Police had stopped him 11 times since March last year, mainly for suspected traffic offences. He was wanted on 12 charges of driving without a licence and not wearing his seatbelt.
Two off-duty police officers chased him. Some 12 other officers joined in. One of them saw Thomas jumping over a fence. Thomas was unarmed. They shot him dead nonetheless. He was shot dead in the Over-the-Rhine area of the city, a poverty-stricken black area.
"This is not a riot, this is a rebellion," said one of those on the streets last week. That is exactly what was said during the last big riot in the city after the assassination of black civil rights leader Martin Luther King in the 1960s. Thomas's shooting was the 15th killing of a black man by Cincinnati police since 1995-and the fourth since November. Not a single white has been killed by the police in that period.
Few expect justice for Timothy Thomas's family or that his killers will be made to answer for their crime. The US Justice Department has done nothing to nail murdering police officers. George W Bush's Attorney General is John Ashcroft. He now calls the shots in the Justice Department.
Ashcroft admires the 19th century Southern slaveowners. As Attorney General in Missouri he opposed a voluntary plan to desegregate schools and vetoed legislation to spread simpler voter registration to black areas.
- 43 percent of the population of Cincinnati is black.
- The Over-the-Rhine area, where Thomas was shot, is 83 percent black.
- The average annual income in Cincinnati is $14,420 per person. In Over-the-Rhine it is $5,359.
- Cincinnati is home to multinational corporations like Kroger Co, Procter & Gamble and Chiquita Brands International Inc. Procter & Gamble owns the local baseball team.
- The unemployment rate for Greater Cincinnati as a whole is 3.8 percent. For blacks in Over-the-Rhine unemployment is 30 percent.
- There is almost total segregation between blacks and whites in Greater Cincinnati schools.