CINCINNATI — City council will consider a motion to reduce or drop charges against protesters arrested for breaking last week’s curfew on Wednesday. The Law and Public Safety Committee met Tuesday to discuss the next steps – but every option comes with strings attached and, ultimately, the City Solicitor’s Office has the final say.
Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman and Councilmember Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney wanted the curfew-related charges totally dropped for those who protested peacefully. The City Solicitor’s office disagreed and released a list of alternatives – one of which is agreeing not to sue the city.
“They felt that they were right to lock me up and it’s unjust for them to do that,” protester Darius Clay said.
Clay, who has been protesting for more than a decade, said he’s not afraid of a fight.
“I know, me personally, I’m going all the way through,” he said. “I’m going to be found not guilty for these charges and as I get found not guilty for these charges, I will sue.”
Clay is one of 513 people arrested on a charge related to violating the curfew since city-wide protests started last week. The Solicitor’s Office will offer protesters only accused of violating curfew four options:
- A guilty plea in exchange for a misdemeanor charge that will be expunged.
- A diversion program.
- A reconciliation program.
- Having the charge dropped entirely in exchange for giving up the legal right to sue the city.
The Solicitor’s Office said dropping the charges outright sends the wrong message.
“I think it’s a really problematic offer to put on the table,” said Jacqueline Greene with the Ohio Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.
She doesn’t think those options make for a fair trade.
“To push them to give up their rights – to give the city a pass for what was abuse of conduct – is just an unacceptable position for the city to take,” Greene said.
WCPO spoke to protesters, who wanted their identities to remain secret, who said they would consider the options to clear their records. Others, like Clay, are skeptical of the offer.
“They don’t want people to sue because they know if we sue them it’s going to look very bad on them because we’re going to win our cases,” Clay said.
The full council will vote on the motion on Wednesday.