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Cincinnati City Council to vote on motion regarding charges against peaceful protesters

Some council members want charges dropped
Posted at 3:35 PM, Jun 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-09 18:25:06-04

CINCINNATI — Cincinnati police arrested 513 people on a charge related to violating the curfew since protests across the city started last week, Chief Eliot Isaac said.

Of those arrests, 61% were men and 39% were women, according to Isaac. About 57% were white, 40% were African American and 3% were classified as “other.”

Some Cincinnati City Council Members said people who were acting peacefully at protests should have their charges dropped, but deputy city solicitor Peter Stackpole said dropping the charges sets a precedent and sends the wrong message.

Stackpole and City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee worked together Tuesday and drafted up a plan to move forward.

Council member Jan-Michelle Lemon Kearney and Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman presented a motion before City Council asking for charges to be dropped for protesters who were demonstrating peacefully but broke curfew.

Smitherman said he felt so passionately about dropping charges because he was arrested while protesting Cincinnati Public Schools in 2010. Smitherman said he was prosecuted harshly and had to hire three attorneys.

“We do not want our prosecutors in that courtroom throwing the book at young people and putting them in a position where they have criminal records for only peacefully protesting and violations of the curfew,” Smitherman said.

RELATED: Some protesters arrested in Cincinnati say they were denied food, water for 10 hours

But Stackpole said the city solicitor’s office cannot make a blanketed decision about the charges.

“I think that when we categorically dismiss things, it does present a greater risk to the city of Cincinnati,” Stackpole said.

Council member Besty Sundermann agreed with Stackpole, saying there is a separation of power between city council and the city solicitor, and it would be improper to tell the city solicitor how to handle cases.

“We can’t get into the position where we are micromanaging the city solicitor and telling her how to do her cases,” Sundermann said. “Secondly, this will set a precedent where we can’t have any curfew in the future because everyone will just assume that city council will dismiss the charges.”

Instead, the solicitor’s office will offer protesters other options. Stackpole helped craft a motion passed by the committee.

Here’s what that motion includes:

The charges will be dropped on a case-by-case basis, if the person signs a civil liability waiver.

People charged can plea down to disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor charge that will be expunged.

There are also options for diversion or reconciliation.

The motion only applies for people who were peaceful and were only arrested on the charge of violating the curfew.

Kearney said she wants the charges to be dropped because she wants to take care of the city’s young people.

“What do we teach our children? Stand up for what’s right. Do it peacefully. That is what we teach our children, and it’s important to honor that,” Kearney said.

Cincinnati City Council will vote on the motion on Wednesday. Ultimately, the city solicitor’s office has the final say.