Beaten to death by Cincinnati cops
By Eric Kerl | December 12, 2003 | Page 16
"MAMA, MAMA." Those were the last words of Nathaniel Jones as he lay dying--savagely beaten to death by the Cincinnati police.
Known as Nate, the 41-year old father became the Cincinnati cops' most recent victim on November 30. Since 1995, at least 18 African American men and boys have lost their lives at the hands of the city's police. In April 2001, Cincinnati was rocked by a three-day rebellion after a cop murdered 19-year-old Timothy Thomas, a young Black man pursued because of outstanding traffic violations.
Despite years of supposed reforms, the videotaped beating death of Jones shows that Cincinnati police are just as racist and murderous as ever.
Jones was at a White Castle hamburger restaurant on Sunday, November 30. A store security video shows him dancing, laughing and hugging friends. Moments later, store workers phoned 911 to request medical help for Jones, who "was acting a little strange," they said.
Once paramedics arrived on the scene, however, they inexplicably called the cops and left. Had these properly trained workers remained at White Castle, the tragedy that followed may have been avoided.
Another video, shot from the inside a police cruiser and presumably triggered to tape by police, begins with Nate throwing a punch at one of the cops. What was said or done to provoke this response is, not surprisingly, absent from the tape.
But the following minutes of the tape are eerily reminiscent of the 1992 Rodney King beating. The cops are seen brutally beating and jabbing Jones with their nightsticks. Between the White Castle video and the police video, a crucial 93 seconds of the incident is missing.
And before the coroner's report was even released, charges were circulating in the media that Nate had used cocaine and PCP. But according to Patrick Dyer, a certified chemical dependency counselor in Cincinnati, PCP has rarely been seen in Cincinnati since the 1960s, particularly in the African American community.
Cincinnati's Democratic Mayor Charlie Luken also reacted with immediate support for the police. He called Jones' 350-pound body a "deadly weapon"--and said that the cops beat him in self-defense.
The loudmouth racist Fraternal Order of Police Vice President Keith Fangman publicly referred to Jones as a "crackhead" and "morbidly obese." Radio racist Bill Cunningham's WLW broadcast a disgusting skit portraying Nathaniel Jones as a 400-pound black druggie.
Racist police murders are nothing new to Cincinnati. The murder of Timothy Thomas by then-Cincinnati cop Stephen Roach in 2001 caused anger at police to boil over in the city's Black neighborhoods. That killing came six months after police suffocated to death another young Black man, Roger Owensby Jr., in the back of a police cruiser.
But the Cincinnati cops' racism doesn't stop there. When U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft visited Cincinnati in September to build support for the USA PATRIOT Act, he unleashed a wave of anti-Arab racism by local authorities. Within a week, Cincinnati police had detained 23 Arab-Americans on trumped-up charges of financing terrorism.
One man, Omran Saleh, was detained with a $1 million cash-only bond. But former cop-turned-prosecutor Mike Allen, a right-wing Republican, ultimately had to drop the charges because of pressure from families and the lack of any evidence whatsoever.
Cincinnati's racist history is long. For nearly a decade, the Ku Klux Klan every year erected a cross in Fountain Square downtown, and Cincinnati police officers earned overtime protecting it from destruction. In 2002, Cincinnati was found to be the eighth-most segregated city in the U.S.
Anti-racists in Cincinnati are mobilizing to demand the resignation of Police Chief Thomas Streicher. He has continued to defend the most racist, murderous practices of the cops. His tenure as chief has seen eight young Black men die at the hands of police.
The experience of the 2001 rebellion has forced city council to institute new approaches in dealing with people outraged by the cops. A public forum after the killing turned out 500 people at Christ Emmanuel Christian Church to grill Streicher and city officials.
Democratic City Manager Valerie Lemmie set the official tone, declaring, "We need to rebuild trust." She spoke about numerous investigations and committees. Lemmie, who was hired by the city council last year, is the city's highest-ranking African American official. "Some council members said privately that Ms. Lemmie's race would be an advantage in a city that endured race riots last spring and where some African American residents feel underrepresented in local government," the Cincinnati Post wrote then.
Streicher, however, offended the entire crowd when he focused on the suffering of the cops and ignored Nathaniel Jones and the loss to his children and family. But dozens of people took to the microphone to ask all the important questions that Striecher and city officials couldn't answer.
Nate's nephew expressed the crowd's frustration. "Another Black man is dead," he said. "We can't trust the police."
On December 5, activists from the Cincinnati Black United Front, Concerned Citizens for Justice, the International Socialist Organization and Cincinnati Progressive Action gathered at District 1 Police Headquarters to demand Streicher's firing.
Rev. Damon Lynch addressed the crowd. "We have marched, we have rebelled, we have boycotted," he said. "For the good of the city, Tom Streicher must step down." Chanting "Hidey, hidey, ho, Streicher, it's time to go," activists placed his eviction notice on the front door of the building.
Approximately 30 people then occupied the front lobby and demanded that they be able to present their notice to Streicher himself. In his absence, one cop promised to hand-deliver it.
Activists are also continuing the two-year-old boycott of Cincinnati. All anti-racists are asked to not spend money in downtown Cincinnati, or participate in downtown events. As Socialist Worker went to press, funeral services for Nathaniel Jones were scheduled for December 6.
Planning is underway for a protest at the City Council meeting December 10. Activists plan to keep organizing for justice--and to end these racist police murders.