GREEN TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Groups of demonstrators gathered Monday evening outside the home of Judge Patrick Dinkelacker, who hours earlier had ordered a former colleague be jailed for six months.
Ex-judge Tracie Hunter received a felony conviction of mishandling a confidential document in 2014 but spent the next five years appealing, keeping herself out of jail in the process. Dinkelacker's order to finally execute the sentence saw her dragged from the courtroom in front of a vociferous crowd of supporters.
Many argued that she had been punished more harshly than a white person in the same position would have been.
“We’re out here because she’s not here,” said Iris Roley of the Cincinnati Black United Front, who marched outside Dinkelacker's home. “She’s locked up for a nonviolent charge, and taxpayers ought to be up in arms about it.”
The roughly 30 other demonstrators who accompanied her were. As a group of them walked in a circle on the sidewalk, they chanted: “Judge Tracie Hunter matters! Black lives matter! Black children matter! Brown children matter!”
Many wore Justice for Judge Tracie Hunter T-shirts. One carried a sign: Welcome to CINCISSIPPI not CINCINNATI.
Also in the crowd was State Sen. Cecil Thomas, who said he had known Hunter for 20 years and referred to her as a “political prisoner” of whom Dinkelacker had attempted to make an example.
“The attitude that he projected (during the hearing) led us to believe that he was saying to us, as black folks in this city, ‘Stay in your place,’” Thomas said. “‘Don’t you dare challenge our authority.’ They say we need to find some healing. No one wants to hear that.”
The first group eventually dispersed and was replaced by something different: A group of Dinkelacker's neighbors hoping to show their support.
“He’s not a racist,” said neighbor Glenn Tepe, who is white. “People throw that word around so much. I know racists. I seen racist people, and it’s disgusting. He’s not that guy.”
Dinkelacker declined an on-camera interview but said he was unhappy with the protesters. They were exercising their rights, but they had disturbed his neighbors, he said.
Roley said she didn’t want them out there any more than he did.
“This is not where we want to be,” she said. “We don’t want to be doing this. We don’t want to be out in front of Dinkelacker’s house. But whether it’s for judges, whether it’s for housing, whether it’s for healthcare, education, we have to go to the extreme to fight.”
Also opposed to Hunter's incarceration Monday — though not present outside Dinkelacker's home — were Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley and Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman, who penned letters asking the judge not to execute her sentence.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters recommended she be evaluated before being jailed. In a letter Dinkelacker read before executing the sentence, Deters proposed Hunter could have a "mental condition" that contributed to her behavior in the long-term court battle.