CINCINNATI — The transit authority announced Friday afternoon it would no longer provide commissioned Metro buses for the detainment and transport of protesters arrested during demonstrations against police brutality.
But the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority -- which owns and operates Cincinnati Metro bus service -- also said it has sold three out-of-commission buses to the city to accommodate this purpose.
Metro drew some applause from some but criticism from others for providing non-union operated buses to transport Cincinnati police to the protest sites as well as in holding and transporting protesters arrested during the previous weekend's demonstrations at The Banks, Downtown, Over-the-Rhine and Clifton Heights.
"We heard you," SORTA Board Chairman Kreg Keesee in a statement. "In the past two days, we have worked closely with the city administration to find a solution to this current situation that does not rely upon Metro."
Over the first weekend of protests into Monday, Cincinnati officers arrested hundreds of protesters for violating Mayor John Cranley's ordered curfew, overwhelming the Hamilton County Justice Center's capacity to process prisoners.
Some of those protesters Monday morning said they were detained for 10 hours or more with no access to food, water or bathroom facilities.
Keesee described the city's request for assistance as "urgent," saying, "An important factor was CPD’s belief that the use of buses was the safest available option to transport large numbers of detainees."
Keesee said in his statement that SORTA will sell three out-of-commission bus coaches to the city for the purpose of assisting its response to curfew enforcement and the protests. The selling price will be $7,500 for all three buses.
In a statment earlier this week, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 627 President Troy Miller said, "We refuse to put bus operators in danger by being forced to drive buses to the protests to take arrested demonstrators to jail."
— Pat LaFleur (@pat_laFleur) June 1, 2020
After Metro began using buses to assist the city in its enforcement of the emergency curfew, Miller quickly clarified that no union members participated in the transport; only non-union supervisors drove the buses used to transport officers and detainees.
In a post to the Facebook group Support the Blue in Cincy, Fraternal Order of Police Local 69 President Dan Hils condemned Metro and SORTA for its decision not to provide buses and drivers to transport officers and detainees.
"During some of the worst civil unrest in this nation's and city's history SORTA METRO are abandoning the police and the community," Hils wrote, in part.
Correction: An earlier version of this story indicated the city sold the three unused buses for $7,500 each. The actual purchase prices was $7,500 for all three buses. This story has been updated to reflect this, and WCPO regrets the error.