To continue the fight against police brutality when an officer is killed on the job.

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Cincinnati is undergoing a crisis of policing. In the past two weeks, there have been two officer-involved shootings where a black man was killed. In the second shooting, just today, the officer also died. There are few details about today’s shooting, I’m writing this on my lunch break, just an hour after the news of the cop’s death was made public, and just a day after a Black Lives Matter rally calling for answers surrounding the earlier killing. It is being implied that the shooter in today’s case had a death wish, but we have seen how, even in the absence of any discernible intention, they will justify the force in whatever way they can while condemning any and all of the actions of the civilian dead.

Prior to these shootings, the early summer heat brought on a series of highly publicized incidents of gun violence around the city, which bubbled over into a political crisis. Chief Blackwell’s job is currently in question, and he has even expressed his own desire, however small, to resign under this hostile climate.

Not in question is the role of the police in the first place, and we’ve seen the first of the reforms put forward to curb with apparent uptick in violence. The reform getting the most attention is the curfew imposed on teenagers out late at night and the introduction of holding centers for parents to pick up their kids, a measure meant to, depending on who you ask, either get violent youth off the street, or to protect them from the violent around every corner. The city budget called for dozens more police to be hired on top of the over 1000-strong police force. And as the state power begins to assert itself, we are beginning to see what that looks like. On June 9th Quandavier Hicks was killed in his apartment after the police entered under dubious pretenses, giving changing stories of what ensued and describing events physically impossible given the house’s architecture.

In Fairfield, a suburb of Cincinnati, a 12 year old girl was forcefully ejected from a pool, her jaw and several ribs broken in an incident which started when another pool goer didn’t have the correct swimwear. Her pregnant mother was also roughed up by the police and a white bystander who was helping the responding officers hold the suspects down. The matter evokes images of McKinney, Texas, where a similar incident occurred just a week prior, leading to the resignation of one of the officers involved. Some who are familiar with the Fairfield complex claim that the pool’s attire rules have been selectively enforced as a means to control the race of patrons.

The recent events and the national movement around police brutality has led to a renewed milieu of serious distrust of police in the city, which, as Baltimore rioted, was remembering the 14th’s anniversary of the April 2001 riots after Timothy Thomas’s murder by Officer Stephen Roach.

But when a cop dies, the conversation changes.

We know what the immediate fallout will be. When two cops in New York were killed in during the period of national response to the non-indictment of a third officer that had previously choked Eric Garner to death, the movement entered into minor crisis. The police union in New York, performed a kind of work stoppage and literally and figuratively turned their backs to Mayor de Blasio who they claimed had, via a lack of action and minor sympathy for protesters (de Blasio has two black children), had helped create a situation that was hostile to the police in the city.

This also comes during a week when the criminal justice system will be lauded for the handling of the case of the racist Charleston murderer who killed 9 blacks gathered at a church known for its founder Denmark Vesey. In 1822, Vesey was killed by the state for a plot involving hundred of slaves and supporters to overthrow the system of bondage in the southern stronghold. The shooter, a young white man, was caught within a day and will no doubt be sentenced to life in prison, or death.

Though separated by almost 200 years, the case of Vesey and the Charleston shooter, speak to the current racial situation of policing in america. After a hasty trial, Vessy was put to death over intention. Vesey’s crime was threatening the system, the Charleston shooters crime is reinforcing it. In this way, the actions of the police in doing their jobs are not so different.

Blackwell is an apparent expert on “community policing,” which is simply the the postmodern reorganization of the police force following the decades of the urban crisis. While the police are, perhaps, less hostile in Cincinnati, having undergone reforms following 2001, their role remains unchanged. Also unchanged is the general rate at which they are killing blacks in Cincinnati, 3 to 4 a year, a similar number in the lead up to the riots.

The death of the officer in Cincinnati comes at a politically important time, when the Cincinnati Police have a growing need to both consolidate their power and justify their existence. The police are there not to protect life or protect property, they are there to protect the system as it currently exists.

We should expect more reforms, and more task forces. More police and more criminalization of everyday life, all in the name of addressing these issues. More Citizens On Patrol, a cornerstone of the top-down model of brand of community policing so lauded in Cincinnati, will roam the streets. In Northside, my neighborhood and the neighborhood where Quandavier Hicks was killed, white COP members will observe the normal actions of their young black neighbors from afar and file reports of what they see to the police at the end of their excursions. There will be more “good guy loitering” as the white petty bourgeois call it, to displace the problematic loitering; read: young, black and male.

The police and their violence is the glue holding together our racist city as a whole, the sugar baked into the cake. Cincinnati’s segregation, a product of both natural and human geography–of race and class and hills–will be enforced and amplified under the guise of being tough on crime. The praxis of community policing will be thrown out of the window in the pursuit of lower statistics in the important areas, but the marketing of a friendly police force will continue.

The movement itself can expect to bear some of the brunt of this heightened policing, our actions will be called inappropriate and in poor taste. We will be labeled criminals and thugs for holding peaceful rallies and demanding accountability of the institutions of power.

And everyone will be called on to do their part. Also this week, 3CDC, the public-private redeveloper responsible for the gentrification of Over-the-Rhine (which recently reached new heights as $650,000 homes came onto the market in what in 2010 was declared the country’s most income disparate census tract), announced plans to renovate the well used Ziegler park. Just as with the renovation of Washington Park, a few blocks west, the discussion around this renovation revolves around apparent criminal activity and the need to make the park more safe and accessible for regular people.

Several weeks ago, Black Lives Matter had a rally that started in Zielger park. While some regulars were initially hostile, saying the rally needed to be several blocks south “where the white people are,” they came around, and several young mothers and their children joined the event, while dozens of others, mostly black, continued with their business, either unfazed or supportive. Outside the park, the police kept close watch, but not because of the rally, but because they are always there.

Nothing the police are doing is out of the ordinary, they are acting completely normally within their role in our society. The people at Ziegler park know this. No amount of additional police, no next day press conferences to explain their actions, no heightened levels of surveillance, no lrads or armored vehicles, no boot camp days for troubled youth, no additional patrols, no meetings with community councils–nothing that serves to bolster the effectiveness or public image of the various institutions of social control will relieve the underlying cause of the troubles we face.

What we should, perhaps, try to imagine is a world where the police are never there in Ziegler park. Not in some sense of a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but a world where the historic role, and apparent necessity, of the police is brought to an end. Good policies, and good police, will only go as far as they are able to under the general conditions in our system. A system of racism and capitalism, directing violence downward toward the working masses, where blacks disproportionately find themselves. The daily violence of poverty and hunger, of want, is ignored, while the control of the problems born out of it are focused on to the tune of $130 million each year in Cincinnati. Police budgets are blindly increased while social services, school, jobs, recreation and housing are all subjected to reviews and cutbacks.

Poverty and racism, central to our system, can’t be reformed out of existence, and no level of investment in think tanks or task forces will fix these issues. Policing is a problem of geometry–the solutions are always forced down from above. A movement rooted in the masses is the only force with the ability to can manifest that imagined society where, instead of the boot forever stamping on the human face, the boot is nonexistent.

We can not let the events of today take us off the streets. If anything, they are another example of the necessity for our movement to go further, to challenge not just the actions of the police, but the grotesque society they defend.

Soapbox hosts Screening of “Condemned”

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keithhighscansKeith LaMar has been on death row for 20 years. He spends 23 hours a day in solitary confinement and has little contact with the world outside his cell. He is facing capital punishment for a crime he did not commit. LaMar is among the 5 prisoners sentenced to death after the Lucasville prison uprising in 1993, one of the largest prison rebellions in history. Like the other 5 prisoners, LaMar’s refusal to cooperate with state prosecutors and correctional officials, whose actions prior to the uprising escalated tension to the breaking point, led him to be singled out, given an unfair trial and convicted on unsupported witness testimony.

On Monday, “Condemned,” a film about LaMar’s case, was screened at Soapbox Books & Zines, a lending library in Northside. The documentary made by local filmmaker Barbara Wolf examines the flimsy evidence against LaMar and exposes an array of misconduct before, during and after his trial. For example, LaMar was convicted of a murder during the uprising that another person admitted to in earlier testimony. The state swept the admission under the rug in return for that individual’s cooperation. In another instance, a witness first testified that he didn’t know who LaMar was and that LaMar wasn’t active in the uprising, then later testified that he saw LaMar leading an apparent death squad that killed 5 inmates. The defense were never provided with any information about the dubious testimonies, a violation of LaMar’s constitutional rights.

LaMar’s is now in limbo. In November, a hearing of oral arguments was held in the 6th district court in Cincinnati to determine whether Keith will get a new trial in light of all the misconduct 20 years ago. By all accounts, the hearing went well, but LaMar was barred from attending to defend himself, the latest in decades of injustice. It may be as late as spring 2016 before a ruling is made. The hope is that LaMar’s original conviction will be thrown out, and the state will not attempt to retry allowing him to finally walk free.

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The Struggle Against Racism Continues

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A meeting will occur on Thursday December 18th, at Christ Emmanuel Christian Fellowship, 2324 May St. in Mt Auburn at 6:00 PM, unfortunately too late for readers of streetvibes. And a teach-in organized by local activists on Saturday, December 20th, in the Main  Library Room 3A at 11:00AM.

On Saturday tens–maybe hundreds–of thousands demonstrated across the United States in the National Day of Resistance against the racist police state. The protests were only the latest in a movement that has been steadily growing since 17 year old Mike Brown was killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, just outside St. Louis, this August. Courageous residents of Ferguson have taken to the streets almost every day, standing up to heavy policing in their neighborhood to fight against systemic racism which is embedded in the core of our society. When Wilson was let off without an indictment in November, and just a week later, when the New York police officer who killed Eric Garner in a chokehold wasn’t indicted either, regular protests have occurred in every major city in the country. Some have called this a new civil rights movement, while others have gone even further, suggesting these actions are revolutionary in nature.

Locally, a grassroots group of organizers, loosely organized as part of the Black Lives Matter campaign, called a solidarity protest, at least the 4th action since the night after the Mike Brown decision. Cincinnati and Ohio’s place in this movement is incredibly complicated–13 years ago, when Timothy Thomas was killed by Officer Roach, angry protesters took to the streets for a week in the largest uprising since the Rodney King uprising in LA in 1992. The protests came after 15 black men had been killed by police over the course of the previous several years. Though the police and city claim to have made changes, these are aesthetic only–today, some 3 or 4 blacks are killed each year by cops locally, and the feverish public relations work of the powerful institutions tends to be effective in sleepy Cincinnati. But a new movement forming as part of the national cause hopefully points in a new direction in the fight for liberation.

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Cincinnati Rallies for Justice in Palestine

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Last Sunday, 300 activists came out to protest the continued Israeli assault on Gaza, the second such protest in 2 weeks. It was one of hundreds of similar actions across the world over the last month, including demonstrations in the tens and hundreds of thousands from New York to London to Cape Town. Chants of “Free Free Palestine” and “Hey Israel, what do you say–how many kids did you kill today” filled downtown as protesters stood on the corner of Fountain Square. Many in the crowd were Palestinians themselves, unable to return to their homeland, drawing attention to the ongoing occupation of Palestine and the horrible conditions that refugees face today.

The protests come after weeks of brutal military action in the Gaza strip following the kidnapping and murder of 3 Israeli teens earlier in the summer. The Israeli state responded in its usual way: collective punishment of the Palestinian people, launching a massive campaign that included constant bombing, a military incursion and the destruction of hundreds of buildings, including hospitals, schools, mosques and the only power plant in the strip. It ultimately took the lives of over 1800 palestinians, most of them civilians, including many children and rendered 40% of the already crowded Gaza strip uninhabitable. As this article is written, a cease fire has more or less ended the violence and “peace” now occupies the ruins.

Throughout the conflict, Israel claimed it was protecting its citizens, who were forced to take cover from an apparently constant barrage of rockets fired from the Gaza strip by Hamas militants. Even so, the rockets killed relatively few, and the vast majority of the losses on the Israeli side were Israeli Defense Force soldiers killed by gunfire, including many killed by friendly fire. Moreover, the rockets fired by the Qassam Brigades are extremely weak, and are reflective of the comparatively low military prowess of the Palestinian people (who have no official army) compared with the IDF, which receives billions in aid from the United States each year. When Israeli troops finally moved into Gaza, under the auspices of finding and destroying tunnels into Israel, the civilian bloodshed was taken to a new level.

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