Grand jury drops charges against man who streamed OTR block party during stay-at-home order

Posted at 6:55 PM, May 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-29 18:55:08-04

CINCINNATI — A grand jury on Friday declined to pursue charges against Rashaan Davis, the Cincinnati man arrested after livestreaming an apparent Over-the-Rhine block party in early April.

A judge had already dismissed Davis’s misdemeanor charge for violating Ohio’s “stay-at-home” order during the pandemic. The grand jury opted to ignore the remaining felony charge of incitement to violence.

Davis, 25, was arrested April 4, less than a day after a recording of his Facebook stream began to circulate on social media. In the recording, Davis and other members of “Club Shell” — the group gathered outside a Shell gas station on East Liberty Street — drink, dance and play cards in closely huddled groups.

“This is how we do it in my city,” he says at one point. “We don’t give a f*** about corona. This is how we celebrate our coronavirus.”

The video became the subject of widespread reproach, both on social media and from city officials such as Mayor John Cranley. However, defense attorney Clyde Bennett II argued that Davis was being unfairly prosecuted for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

Other groups already had gathered — and would continue to do so throughout the statewide quarantine — without similar punishment, including the #OpenOhio protesters who demanded the stay-at-home order be lifted.

“If you are going to prosecute one group of people for violating the stay at home order prosecute all,” Bennett wrote in a Facebook post after Friday’s grand jury decision.