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Black Lives Matter supporters want policy changes, not just a mural, from Cincinnati City Council

'They are giving us the middle finger in our faces'
Speaker at Budget and Finance Committee Meeting
Posted at 6:29 PM, Jun 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-22 19:42:03-04

CINCINNATI — Members of the public on Monday addressed City Council about Cincinnati’s proposed 2021 budget for the first time since Thursday, when Councilman David Mann cut a scheduled hearing short amid boos from attendees who opposed a funding increase for Cincinnati police.

Many speakers stuck to the same script and called for the Cincinnati Police Department to be defunded, but many also demanded that Mann resign.

Mann hit the gavel adjourning Thursday's meeting while audience members were booing and shouting at a speaker who wanted the police fully funded. Protests spilled out onto the streets from the Duke Energy Convention Center.

Inside City Hall Monday, speakers said they want city policy to match the Black Lives Matter mural that is painted on the streets outside.

“We’re tired of it,” said Rosemary Parker. “Since 2001, we heard the same stories. Alright, you took a step up and you painted a mural, but it’s the same scenario. Nothing has changed.”

Along with her frustration about the budget, her anger was focused on Mann’s handling of last week’s hearing.

“They are giving us the middle finger in our faces,” she said.

Other speakers sent a similar message and said directly to Mann that “when you pounded your gavel, you exposed to us your deafness” and “what you, David Mann, did on Thursday was incredibly disrespectful to the community.”

Mann said Friday that it wasn’t an easy decision to close the meeting, but it needed to be done because it was no longer orderly or productive.

“We were trying to listen to each other respectfully; that fell apart,” Mann said.

Many speakers Monday also spoke directly about the 2021 city budget, which includes a $74 million shortfall in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, plus a proposed $1 million increase for the Cincinnati Police Department.

“The police don’t need all this,” said attendee Camille Embry. “They’ve got military tanks, for Pete’s sake. We aren’t terrorists. We’re not the enemy. We’re regular citizens.”

Parker said next year’s budget is a chance for council to act, and that redirecting money away from CPD is the way it can live up to the words on the mural painted on Plum Street.

“Put the money where your mouth is,” Parker said. “Show you care for your citizens. Make real changes, not lip service.”

There will be two more special hearings held by the council's budget and finance committee on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss ordinances and proposed changes to the budget.

However, Mann said last week that the calls to defund the police may not happen this year.

“It may be that some of the changes come later, as we find programs that we want to embrace and support and we find revenues to support them,” said Mann. “To think we can wind this all up in a thoughtful way by June 30 isn’t realistic.”

Fraternal Order of Police president Daniel Hils said he is asking for a show of support at city council for police officers as well.

On Monday, he called for family members of officers to "come down and express their concern with council's activities and lack of support for their loved ones." Hils also said that a motion by Councilman Chris Seelbach to remove Cincinnati Police Department tools like pepper spray and tear gas would "put our officers in even greater danger."