COLUMN: Forget soccer -- the protest at FC Cincinnati game was a victory

'This is what a university is all about'

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati scored two major victories Wednesday night.

The city successfully hosted another Major League Soccer team at a time when our young franchise is trying to prove it can play with the big boys and even beat the Chicago Fire 3-1.

PHOTOS: 'Justice for DuBose' chants greet FC Cincinnati fans outside Nippert Stadium

And, even more importantly, a coalition of social justice organizations showed our community and out-of-town guests a peaceful and impactful demonstration against the results of the retrial of former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing in the fatal shooting of Sam Dubose.

RELATED: Second mistrial declared for Ray Tensing

Several hundred demonstrators split into two groups to surround each of the main entry points into Wednesday night's game. They allowed fans to pass through as they chanted and asked people to sign petitions requesting a retrial of Tensing.

RELATED: Protest planned for FC Cincinnati game

Although most fans ignored the petitions, they couldn't help but hear the demonstrators' chants of "No justice, no peace" and "Yes to FCC -- no to killer cops!"

A young woman who identified herself only as Nik sat on the ground next to her 3-year-old daughter, Mina, holding a homemade cardboard sign and giving Mina cheese crackers one at a time while protesters shouted, "We don't care if you watch the game, just sign the petition and say his name!"

Nik and her daughter, Mina, with their homemade sign.

"I go to as many Black Lives Matter rallies as I can," Nik said. "They're really important. The police need to be held accountable."

Nik said she has brought her young daughter to plenty of the rallies."She loves hanging out," she said of Mina. "As long as we have snacks, of course."

About 20 feet away, University of Cincinnati spokesman Greg Vehr sat on some steps outside the entrance to Nippert Stadium and watched the scene unfold.

"I've been here for most of the protest," Vehr said. "A peaceful protest and a great soccer game -- this is what a university is all about. Where people can come together with a mix of ideas to have fun and make a point."

I saw a couple FC Cincinnati fans flip off the demonstrators, and Brian Taylor, an organizer of Black Lives Cincinnati, told 9 On Your Side's T.J. Parker that one fan started to get physical with one of the protesters.

The encounter prompted Taylor to grab a megaphone and announce: "We support your right to be here. But you will not physically assault our people. If the police won't stop it -- I will stop it."

But there were other fans that shook hands with protesters, took their fliers and even stopped to sign petitions.

Naja Hill and Keziah Daniels were among the fans who signed.

Naja Hill signs a petition at Wednesday's rally to request a retrial of Ray Tensing.

Hill, a 19-year-old college student from New Jersey, is in town this summer to do research at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. Until Wednesday, her only experience with protests was seeing them on TV or in the movies, and she wanted to be part of it in some way, she said.

Daniels, who will be a junior at Xavier University in the fall, agreed.

"My school is big into social justice," she said. "Right now, I feel more drawn to the protest than to the game."

A native of Guyana in South America, Daniels said the whole idea of protesting publicly still felt new to her.

"The people there don't really stand up for their beliefs," she said.

Whether you agreed with them or not, the demonstrators on UC's campus Wednesday did just that in a way that got their point across peacefully.

That feels like a victory for our community bigger even than FC Cincinnati's amazing win against Chicago.

A University of Cincinnati Police Officer stands by as demonstrators protest the results of the retrial of former UC Police Officer Ray Tensing.

Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. To read more stories by Lucy, go to www.wcpo.com/may. To reach her, email lucy.may@wcpo.com. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.

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