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'This is wrong': Cincinnati leaders react after violence unfolded Downtown, in Over-the-Rhine

Protests resulted in arrests, damage overnight Friday
Posted at 1:15 AM, May 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-30 15:21:52-04

CINCINNATI — City Councilman Jeff Pastor appeared in tears Saturday night at the corner of Vine Street and Central Parkway, speaking rapidly and swearing profusely as he rebuked protesters for damaging Downtown and Over-the-Rhine businesses during a late-night demonstration connected to the Minneapolis death of George Floyd.

"I can’t understand for the life of me what is going on right now in the city of Cincinnati," he said. "There are people down here who are encouraging 14-year-old kids — these babies are 14 years old, man, and they’re encouraging them to throw bottles at these ******* cops. … And I don’t give a **** about how mad or angry you are with the ******* — what’s happening with the police, but these 15-year-old kids don’t have anything to do with it, man."

He went on to argue that no protest over Floyd's death, which had happened at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, necessitated vandalism or aggression in Cincinnati.

“I understand that people are in pain because of police brutality,” he said. “That’s not the point here. The point is that we are in the city of Cincinnati. … To displace your pain with Cincinnati police officers is not right.”

CONTINUING COVERAGE: People continue marches after dark, break windows of Justice Center

MORE: What precautions are in place for Ohio protests of recent police killings?

Earlier that night, he had tweeted another outraged message:

City Councilman Chris Seelbach, quoting Cincinnati City Manager Patrick Duhaney late Friday, said Cincinnati Police officers were working to get crowds of more than 300 people under control.

The newest member of council, Jan-Michele Lemon-Kearney, said Cincinnati is seeing "hurt and anger erupt" over racial tensions seen nationwide.

"The killing of George Floyd highlighted the disregard for Black lives that we’ve seen over and over across the country. We’re watching that hurt and anger erupt tonight. People have a constitutional right to protest and assemble, but we encourage peaceful protests. We want everyone to be safe," she wrote early Saturday morning in a statement.

Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman said he shares the pain of protesters expressing "anger and frustration" while calling for an end to violence.

"My heart continues to break for George Floyd and his family. This tragic loss of life underscores a harsh reality for so many African American men – that it 'could be me,'" Smitherman wrote.

The assault on our police officers and first responders is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

The destruction and theft of property cannot continue.

— Christopher Smitherman (@voteSmitherman) May 30, 2020

Hamilton County GOP Chair Alex Triantafilou, calling the action of Minneapolis police leading to Floyd's death indefensible, denounced the "trashing and looting of innocent businesses" in Cincinnati overnight.

Eric Kearney, President & CEO of the African American Chamber, expressed sentiments of a community once again suffering the "hurt and outrage of yet another senseless transgression against an African American individual.

"Your African American Chamber understands your frustration and we urge you to channel it through prayer, thoughtful discussion and peaceful protest. We cannot, however, condone acts of violence against law enforcement and job-creating community businesses already reeling from the pandemic. We need to support local, community-based businesses as a way to uplift and empower. We will work together, as one community, to find justice and peace," Kearney said in a statement Saturday.

Councilmember David Mann took to Twitter Saturday, saying there is much more work to do "to address systemic racism in our country, and that work is the work of listening and self-examination, not violence.

"Please take care of each other," Mann wrote.

Woodrow Keown, Jr., President of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, released a statement in support of national and local peaceful protests "for constructive change."

"For too long, those oppressed by systemic racism, hatred and ignorance have suffered the inherent fear and indignity in silence or isolation," Keown wrote. "Now, multicultural and multigenerational groups of concerned people are again advocating to progress the case of inclusive freedom in the only way loud enough for their voices to be heard over centuries of being silenced, ignored and diminished. Protest has historically proven to be the best means of communication for the oppressed, and we hope the nation hears, loud and clear, their calls for change, peace, equity and justice.

"We know that violence only begets violence and that only love and peace can drive out hate. We urge those who are demonstrating in support of freedom from fear and for equitable change to do so peacefully, so that we can lead by example and show that we are that change we so desperately need."