CINCINNATI — Mayor John Cranley moved Cincinnati’s citywide curfew forward to 8 p.m. Monday night, warning that it could be extended further into the week if ongoing protests against police brutality result in more property damage or attacks on officers.
“This is not a joke,” he said. “This is serious. If you want to avoid, at a minimum, a really uncomfortable night at the justice center … then please obey the curfew.”
Police said 307 people had been arrested Sunday night and early Monday after breaking a 9 p.m. curfew and continuing to demonstrate outside the Hamilton County Courthouse. A Sky 9 overhead view of the Hamilton County Justice Center Monday morning showed dozens of them still outside, having been held there overnight.
Police released the following breakdown on those arrested: 187 white (61%), 112 African American (36%) and eight listed as "other" (3%). There were 187 males (61%) and 120 females (39%).
Cranley and police Chief Eliot Isaac said the protesters were kept outside for a maximum of 4-5 hours at a time, given food and provided with bathroom breaks. Social media posts, including some recordings attributed to detained protesters, claimed they had been kept outside for nine hours or more without food. WCPO's Larry Seward interviewed a sheriff's spokesperson who denied that.
— Larry Seward (@LSewardWCPO) June 1, 2020
Nevertheless, the mayor acknowledged he had heard similar complaints and that the Justice Center would be asked to free up additional indoor space in case of more arrests.
“We’re sorry about that, but it’s also the case that we will continue to enforce the curfew,” he said. “To avoid this very unpleasant experience, the best thing you can do is obey the curfew.”
In a tweet, Sheriff Jim Neil also denied social media claims that someone taken into custody had died in the jail.
Multiple social media posts have been circulating claiming that a person has died while in custody at the HCJC. This is completely false! Please Share!
— Hamilton County Sheriff's Office-Sheriff Jim Neil (@hcso_org) June 1, 2020
Sunday’s protest was far larger than either Friday or Saturday’s, according to Isaac. Those demonstrations, which remained peaceful for hours during the day, both became tense after dark — buildings in Over-the-Rhine were vandalized Friday, and a bullet struck a Cincinnati officer’s helmet early Sunday morning. Cranley implemented the 9 p.m. curfew in response.
Speaking Monday, he said he sympathized with the protesters’ motivations. The Minneapolis killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was accused of using a false $20 bill and died with a police officer’s knee on his neck, sparked a nationwide outcry fed by the foundation of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Police responses to protests across the country, including incidents in which officers pulled people from their cars, pepper-sprayed them at close range and shoved elderly particpants to the ground, only intensified protesters’ anger.
Cranley said anger and free expression were justified, but his curfew was necessary for public safety.
“On top of everything else, people are at risk of contracting coronavirus and getting COVID-19” during public demonstrations, he added. “This is dangerous in more ways than one.”
Cincinnati officers are working 12-hour shifts, Isaac said, and vacations and overtime have been put on hold. However, he described morale within the department as high.
Cranley said he does not want to call the National Guard to manage protesters, as other cities across the country have done. He praised what he described as “incredible professionalism” from Cincinnati officers who dealt with the protests over the weekend.
“Go home,” he said. “At 8 o’clock, go home. … George Floyd’s life is enough loss of life. We don’t need officers shot. We don’t need you hurt. This is not a joke, and if you get arrested, it won’t be pleasant.”
More than 350 protesters had gathered back outside the courthouse by the time he finished speaking.