CINCINNATI — Less than 72 hours after a similar event turned deadly in Dallas, Black Lives Matter: Cincinnati concluded a peaceful rally of more than 5,000 people to protest the shooting deaths of black men by police in Minnesota and Louisiana.
The Cincinnati Police Department was on the scene, to be sure. But even with such a large and impassioned group of people, there were no arrests and no reports of violence of any kind.
"I think what happened yesterday was about as best-case scenario as we could accomplish," Assistant Police Chief Paul Neudigate said. "I don't know that it gets any better."
The success of Sunday's protest was the result of careful planning for the event and months of preparing leaders of the local Black Lives Matter group, said Brian Taylor, an organizer of Black Lives Matter: Cincinnati.
"We always plan out and calculate what the political moment is and what we need to try to rise to that moment," Taylor said.
The organization did make a special effort to have as many legal observers as possible to try to prevent any provocations against the protest or "any rising emotions within it," he said. Black Lives Matter: Cincinnati also was careful with the order in which various speakers spoke.
"We organized our contributions from the mic to dovetail with that while simultaneously giving a stiff, stern message that differed from most other organizations as it pertained to Dallas, Baton Rouge and Minneapolis," Taylor said. "We made it clear we won't back down one iota from demanding justice and will not be pressured or shamed into reducing or watering down our message."
The event, called "Enough is Enough: Justice for Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and Sam DuBose!" began at 4 p.m. Those in attendance gathered for a rally featuring multiple speakers, including Audrey DuBose. Her son, Sam DuBose, was the black motorist who was shot to death by former University of Cincinnati Police Officer Ray Tensing last July.
Its peaceful outcome was a marked contrast to what occurred in Dallas July 7. That evening, at the end of a peaceful protest over the Baton Rouge and St. Paul area killings, a gunman ambushed and killed five police officers. The Dallas police used a bomb delivered by a robot to kill the shooting suspect, Micah Xavier Johnson.
Black Lives Matter: Cincinnati issued a statement about the officers' deaths in Dallas, calling the bloodshed "a sad and unfortunate circumstance" and criticizing those "sniffing for a link" between the movement and the officers' slayings.
But it was critical for the organization to continue with its planned rally, Taylor said.
"People are going to do what they're going to do," he said. "All we can do is organize to make the action as safe as possible and make it so that everyone from 3 years old to 93 could participate."
Taylor also shared these thoughts with WCPO:
• On the Cincinnati Police Department presence: It was not coordinated between the police and the protest organizers. "I'm not going to say we're done talking to the police. But the fact of the matter is, no matter how they spin it, what they did was judge the situation. Our forces were stronger than what they wanted to try to challenge. It's as simple as that. And they acted accordingly."
Neudigate declined to respond to Taylor's explanation, other than to say the police department's actions are strategic and based "upon the situation and the intelligence."
"Our ultimate goal is to facilitate their right to free speech and assembly and ensure that no one gets hurt, which includes the protestors and the police," he said. "We're very happy with our response, and we hope everybody else was, too."
• On the diversity of the crowd: Taylor was not surprised that so many white people were part of the event. "That's what we expect. It's always the case. While we focus on building black leadership and building an organization that is fighting for black rights, the door is open for anyone who is open to participate, lead and help advance the struggle. It's going to take every single one of us to take on an institution that is an enemy of all of us."
• On whether Black Lives Matter: Cincinnati attracts a more diverse group than other Black Lives Matter organizations in other cities: "Not necessarily at all. The media unfortunately makes the mistake of calling the social phenomenon we see around us the Black Lives Matter movement. It really is a new iteration of the Black Liberation Movement. There are many organizations that go by different names fighting for justice in the streets. We're fighting for justice for all, starting with black lives but spanning the oppressed in general. I would say that most groups are open to participation."
• Does the organization have plans for any protests to coincide with the NAACP Annual Convention that starts July 16 in downtown Cincinnati? "Not particularly. We'll canvass the streets, find ways to show solidarity for families trying to get justice for the loved ones they lost. We see it as a potential opportunity to link up with forces in other cities maybe and deepen networks. But that's really the extent of it."
• Does the success of Sunday's rally say anything in particular about Cincinnati and the people here? "I don't think it says anything particular about Cincinnati. I do know that Black Lives Matter Cincinnati has been working and building a leadership and trying to encourage broader layers of people to become leaders in action. Not through some leadership training course — but in what you do. You earn your place in the organization.
"We've been doing that for a while, and you never know when an explosion will pull on those skills and confidence that people acquire. But if you prepare and you build a movement like that when, in those moments when things explode, you can take advantage of them and you can maximize everybody's capacities to be able to build quickly and harness everybody's energies quickly.
"That, in combination with the lack of fear and the refusal to bow down to the pressures not to act and not bending to pressures to call things off and water things down, helped capture the imagination of people who turned out. That, if anything, might differ from other places."
More information about Black Lives Matter: Cincinnati can be found on Facebook here.
Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and also shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. Childhood poverty is an important focus for her and for WCPO. To read more stories about childhood poverty, to go www.wcpo.com/poverty.