Flashback: The forgotten Cincinnati Race Riot of 2001

Flushed down the memory hole by the media

Blacks Torch Cincinnati, Target Whites
Written by Kyle Rogers, and edited by Dr. Samuel Francis

This article was originally published in The Citizens Informer in 2001, a defunct newspaper that was affiliated with the Conservative Citizens Foundation. The video footage below was originally purchased on VHS from WCPO, ABC Channel 9, by Kyle Rogers in 2001.

Despite the occurrence of race riots in Seattle, Washington, and Cincinnati, Ohio in recent months, the establishment national media have failed to cover these events adequately or even to mention them until virtually forced to do so by the scale of the violence. The silence of the media about these disturbances is serious, not only because Americans need and have a right to know the truth about race relations in their country and their cities but also because the upsurge in black urban violence directed against whites may indicate much more serious racially motivated violence in the future, especially as the economy weakens.

What is generally well known about the origins of the Cincinnati riots is that they started in “protest” of the shooting of a black man by a white police officer. On Saturday, April 7, 2001, two off‑duty police officers working security at a bar in the inner city spotted Timothy Thomas, a 19‑year‑old black male wanted on 14 misdemeanor charges. Realizing he was in danger of arrest, Thomas started running, and numerous police officers pursued him. The pursuit ended when Thomas led a lone officer, Steve Roach, into one of Cincinnati’s most infamous alleys.

Thomas reportedly spun around suddenly and reached into his pocket. Officer Roach says that he believed Thomas was reaching for a weapon and instinctively pulled his own gun and fired. Thomas, who actually was not armed, was hit in the chest and killed.

The Cincinnati media immediately leapt to the conclusions it wanted to reach. “Unarmed black male shot by white cop; Fifth black shot by cops since November; fifteen blacks and no whites killed by cops since 1995” were among the headlines and sound bites that dominated the reporting and disguised editorializing of the media reaction. Thomas was portrayed as a troubled teen who was turning his life around. Thomas was supposedly a devoted father who wanted to do something positive with his life. The media’s one‑sided reporting of the story emboldened a crowd of hysterical blacks who mobbed City Hall on Monday, despite an announcement that a grand jury was investigating Thomas’ death.

The black mob became violent and began moving through downtown Cincinnati, knocking over vendors’ stands and throwing rocks and bottles. Police followed but did little to stop the violence.

Full scale rioting began on Tuesday in Over‑the‑Rhine, the inner city neighborhood where Thomas was shot, and downtown Cincinnati. Blacks stopped traffic, pulled whites from their cars and beat them. Some blacks stood on street corners hurling bricks at white motorists and pedestrians. Fox News reported that an elderly white couple was pulled from their car. A WLWT television truck driver was hit with a brick hurled through his window. WCPO, an ABC affiliate, aired ten minutes of coverage on the 11:00 p.m. news Tuesday. WCPO had videotaped a Kentucky truck driver being pulled from his truck and beaten. The news crew interviewed three other whites who were attacked. One woman, who had blood streaming down her face and chest, was pulled from her car and hit on the head with a brick. Her elderly mother was also pulled from the passenger seat and beaten.

Nevertheless, the media has given no indication of how many whites were attacked. However, during the week after the riots, many more stories and pictures of other battered whites surfaced. On April 17th Bill Cunningham, a WLW radio talk show host in Cincinnati, stated on his show that 128 whites were attacked. Roslyn Jones, an albino black woman, was also attacked. She says blacks who approached her from behind and yelled “white woman” threw bricks at her car.

While whites were being attacked, many blacks were displaying signs of racial pride. Some held homemade signs reading, “Black Power” and “Honk if you’re black.” Others waved black, red, and green “African‑American” flags as well as signs promoting the Nation of Islam. Many also held professionally made “Don’t shoot” banners. The professional character of these signs indicate that the protestors were being organized.

Blacks smashed storefronts and looted Findley Market in the Over‑the‑Rhine neighborhood. Findley Market had represented a major success in the gentrification of Cincinnati’s inner city. Wealthy liberal whites, which have been renovating old Victorian homes in the inner city, began revitalizing Findley in the early 90’s. Much of Findley Market was deserted for 20 years following the 1968 black riots after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. leveled the neighborhood and sent business owners packing in fear. White business owners, interviewed by the media, expressed confusion over why they were targeted since they had brought jobs and money to the community.

Numerous police officers reported being attacked during the riots. Blacks threw bottles at white cops from apartment windows, and rocks from street corners. Half a dozen police reported being fired upon. One officer was hit by a bullet but only slightly injured.

Local schools in Over‑the‑Rhine cancelled evening events. Some cancelled Wednesday classes. Mail delivery was also halted in Over‑the‑Rhine. Several fires were set, including one in a three‑story apartment. Despite limited coverage of attacks on whites on Tuesday night, the media was silent on the issue Wednesday morning. When Ohio’s numerous newspapers came out, they spoke of “rioters, looting, and vandalism.” No mention of anti‑white attacks. Cincinnati’s television newscasts even changed their tune and began downplaying the crimes.

Protests continued Wednesday, this time in four new neighborhoods. There was only sporadic violence and looting. Large groups of black clergymen, at one point forming a wall between protesters and police, urged blacks to be peaceful.

On Thursday, Mayor Charles Luken declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew on Cincinnati. Luken actually referred to anti‑white violence, which is rare among today’s politicians who are mindful of being politically correct. In a press conference he stated, “whites are tired of being targeted in their cars.” By this time, the weather had turned sour and rioters were staying home.

Also on Thursday, WCPO aired a live discussion with Mayor Luken and black community leaders. A meek Luken did little to defend police when the black guests boldly proclaimed that police had “murdered” 15 blacks since 1995.

Of these 15 blacks killed by police, seven had guns. Five of them fired on officers. One flagged down a policewoman and shot her three times before she fired back. One black man died of cocaine-induced sudden death syndrome as he fought with police. A policeman, who was being dragged from a car, shot the black driver. The officer, who was black himself, was dismembered and killed by the out-of-control car moments after he fired the shot. Twelve of the 15 assaulted police with some kind of deadly weapon, and police were entirely justified in shooting all of them.

In the same period of time that the 15 blacks died at the hands of police, there were 190 black-on-black murders. This constitutes 80 percent of the 238 total murders in Cincinnati for that period. Of course, there were no riots or protests about the blacks murdered by other blacks.

On the Saturday following the riots, a large funeral was held at the Avondale Baptist Church. The funeral was a who’s who of black racist leaders. Aside from numerous local black speakers, Jamil Muhammad of the Nation of Islam, Malik Zulu Shabazz of the New Black Panther Party, Martin Luther King III of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and Kweisi Mfumi, president of the NAACP, all spoke at the funeral. Left wing Ohio Governor Bob Taft and Mayor Charles Luken also spoke. The church held about 400 attendants, who were virtually all black except for white politicians. Another 400‑600 blacks stood outside and listened to loudspeakers placed on the church roof.

Malik Shabazz, who was flanked by a dozen other Black Panthers in military uniforms, received an exhilarating response when he led the crowd in chants of “black power!” Both crowds, inside and outside, raised their fists and cheered. Shabazz audaciously declared, “This isn’t a riot, this is a rebellion!” Malik Shabazz took over the New Black Panther Party after Dr. Khallid Abdul Muhammad, who advocated the extermination of white people, died suddenly last February of a brain aneurysm.

Governor Taft spoke on the need for police and government to do more to help the black community. A visibly nervous and shaking Mayor Luken apologized to Thomas’ mother. Blacks in the church laughed and jeered as he spoke.

As the funeral closed, uniformed Black Panthers carried the coffin to a waiting hearse. Blacks outside raised their fists as the pall bearers walked by. After the hearse left, Malik Shabazz led 200 blacks across the street for a rally. Some waved flags and Nation of Islam banners as the crowd chanted, “Black power” and “Shoot the police.” A WCPO news crew interviewed Shabazz. He said they had come to Cincinnati from Detroit to “organize an army of black men to defend themselves from police.” One of his uniformed followers added that if the white man doesn’t remove his foot from their backs, “We gonna break da ankle!” The Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson both spoke in Cincinnati as well. Sharpton spoke at a church on Easter Sunday and Jackson the following Tuesday. 

On Saturday night the media was still fanning the flames. WCPO news anchors related how mostly white neighborhoods were not affected by the curfew. They aired pictures of a deserted and boarded up Findley Market, then showed gleeful whites having fun at a bar in a white suburb.

NAACP President Kweisi Mfume had already been first on the scene, having held a town meeting two days before the funeral. Mfume, who asked blacks to end violence, was jeered and shouted down by more radical blacks in the crowd. Numerous blacks in the audience verbally attacked police and whites and excused black violence.

The curfew was lifted on Monday, but the situation was far from calm. The New Friendship Baptist Church held a conference on Tuesday in which teenage blacks talked to a crowd of 300. The Black Youth Coalition Against Civil Injustice was formed with Derrick Blassingame, 14, as president. Blassingame blamed the riots on the police, media, and poor black leaders. He stated, “Some of our black leaders just want their faces on TV. They are in this for four things only; reputation, power, politics and money.” Other teens that spoke attacked police and called for Officer Roach to be prosecuted. Several proposed a black boycott of white owned stores in Cincinnati.

Angela Leisure, Thomas’ mother, also spoke at the teen forum. Leisure threatened more violence if Roach is not indicted for murder. “We are all sitting on a powder keg waiting to see what the grand jury does,” she proclaimed. There were many more ceremonial attacks on the police. The NAACP announced it would be joining a class action lawsuit, already in progress, filed by blacks against the police for alleged harassment. With much media fanfare, four black police officers quit the Fraternal Order of Police and accused FOP leaders of racism.

The city council has agreed to give $2,000 grants to each damaged business and to offer low interest loans. Leonard Weinstein, who owns a pawnshop, says his business was picked clean. He claims $100,000 in damages and says he will have to close down if not given a grant for all of the damages. Gov. Taft and other state officials are considering using state money to give business owners grants. The city of Cincinnati is planning special events to be held at Findley Market to encourage white consumers to return. One hundred and twenty businesses have reporting being damaged.

In response to the race riots, the federal government expressed support for the blacks. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that the Justice Department would investigate the Cincinnati police department for racial bias and that the FBI was investigating the shooting of the black fugitive. Meanwhile, while the federal government was investigating whites, a black college professor at Northern Kentucky University just across the state line from Cincinnati called on blacks to kill a white policeman.

Fox News reported on May 1 that the campus newspaper, The Northerner, quoted Dr. Clinton Hewan, Professor of Political Science at NKU, as saying that the family of the slain fugitive should “go out and get” the policeman involved in the shooting. Professor Hewan was quoted as saying, the family should “quietly stalk that S.O.B. and take him out.” The professor claims his remarks were “taken out of context.” He later stated that he was merely trying to illustrate his belief that it is “time for blacks to stand up and fight back” against “white racist” persecution. The president of the university said he was “appalled and deeply troubled” by the statements attributed to Hewan, but also said Hewan is “a good man and a good teacher,” even though he is often a “confrontational” figure on campus.

During the riots, 837 people were arrested. Over half were arrested for curfew violations. Of these, 63 were charged with looting, vandalism, arson, and physical assault; 61 of those charged were black. Yet so far there has been only one person charged with a “hate crime” — a white man, Craig Carr, 20, who is accused of throwing a brick at the window of a black motorist while yelling a racial epithet on April 12. Charged with “ethnic intimidation,” criminal damaging, and aggravated assault, Mr. Carr, if convicted, could receive two years in prison. Hamilton County prosecutor Mike Allen said that black youths who assaulted white motorists during the riot would also be charged with hate crimes. So far none has been so charged.

There were also millions of dollars in property damage. However, this was far from being the worse race riot in history. In 1992, blacks rioted in Los Angeles killing 59 people and injuring 2,300. In 1980, blacks killed 18 and injured 400 in Tampa, Florida. During the Martin Luther King riots of 1968, when Cincinnati’s previous race riot occurred, violence flared in 125 cities, leaving 46 dead and 2,600 injured.

Tensions are still high among Cincinnati’s 331,000 residents, of which 43 percent are black. It has, for decades, been an unwritten rule that you should not stop your car while driving through the inner city. White Cincinnatians don’t know what to expect. Columnist Geoff Metcalf reported that whites have made a run on gun stores in the tri‑state area. Many fear that by excusing black violence and the continued appeasing of the black community, white politicians are only setting the stage for worse violence in the future.

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