Rev. Damon Lynch III: Cincinnati leader calls for change in Ferguson

CINCINNATI - The shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, is sparking calls for change from across the country and right here at home.

Rev. Damon Lynch III helped bring about the changes necessary to heal Cincinnati after riots in 2001 followed the shooting of 19-year-old Timothy Thomas.

Both Brown and Thomas were unarmed blacks gunned down by white police officers.

"We just want to share our story and offer our support," Lynch said.

"The pressure comes from the community. The community starts and the community finishes it. That's what happened in Cincinnati."

More than a decade ago, Lynch was involved in a grassroots movement to address police brutality and calm civil unrest here.

The injuries, arrests and police presence that thrust the Queen City into the national spotlight look eerily similar to what's been going on in Ferguson.

Now Lynch and others are preparing to go to Ferguson and offer their hands, hearts and wisdom.

"You've got to keep fighting and you've got to keep the pressure on the city," Lynch said. "If the officer unlawfully took Michael Brown's life. then the officer needs to go to prison.

"Until cops are held accountable for police brutality, it's not going to change."
Lynch says by gathering city officials and local religious leaders  their presence in Ferguson could offer a glimmer of hope to those who seem to have lost it.

"The recovery process is a long and hard process, but we do have a model that right now all Cincinnatians applaud (even though) at that time all Cincinnatians were not on board," Lynch said.

"It's not perfect in Cincinnati, but it's a lot better than what it was."

Prayer and Support

Lynch welcomed about 100 people to his New Prospect Baptist Church on Summit Road on Thursday night. They came to discuss recent events, to pray and to hold a moment of silence.

"People are concerned, and we really want to get a message out to our young people because often times they're the victims of police brutality," Lynch said.

"There's a clear message tonight that police abuse of power has run amuck and it has to be reined in across this country," he said.

"It takes action.

"We need to go out.

"We need to march.

"We need to do more than just tweet about it, Facebook about it.

"We need to actually move."

Charles Anderson, 21, says it's an important personal matter to him.

"As a young black male myself -- seeing this repeatedly happen in the community -- I feel that something needs to be done," Anderson said.

Trishia Smith has a teenage son. She said this was a teaching opportunity.

"How can I be informative with my children, telling them how to react?

"You know, 'Are you going to react in anger? How are you going to diffuse the situation?' "

Greenwood Sees Similarities

Another figure in the police reform that followed Cincinnati's riots says he sees similarities between the unrest here in 2001 and what's happening in Ferguson.

Scott Greenwood, who is consulting with the Albuquerque Police Department, said Ferguson let too much time pass before getting out critical information about the shooting, just as Cincinnati did.

Greenwood did praise Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon for calling in state police to take over from Ferguson police and restore order.

Greenwood said it takes one of the parties to the unrest out of the confrontation.

Social Media Responds To Ferguson

The riots in Ferguson are sparking national movements online.

On Twitter, a popular hash tag is #iftheygunnedmedown.

Users have been posting two pictures of themselves side by side - one looking accomplished and the other more "thuggish."

It's a movement of people questioning how they may be portrayed if they were shot by police.

"I think the hash tag is powerful," Lynch said. "It shows the power of social media and it also shows how the media can shape perception, so depending on what picture of Michael Brown you see, it shapes peoples' perception.

"But the picture of Michael Brown people need to remember is the last picture of Michael Brown - the one laying on the street."

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