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WEB POSTED 06-06-2001
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Irony of Ironies in Cincinnati

Timothy Thomas, the unarmed young Black man who had outstanding misdemeanor warrants. He was killed in April by a white police officer in Cincinnati. While we still do not know the "official" reason for the killing, one thing we do know is that Brother Thomas had misdemeanor traffic tickets. We know he ran from the police. We know that he was killed.

What would you think if you read the headline of your local paper and it said, "One man commits misdemeanors and gets death; another man commits murder and gets misdemeanors?" I am sure you would think it was a mockery, a travesty, a miscarriage of justice, and every other negative you could come up with, right? Well, guess what! It very well could be the headline in the local newspapers in Cincinnati.

You remember Timothy Thomas, the unarmed young Black man who had outstanding misdemeanor warrants. He was killed in April by a white police officer in Cincinnati. While we still do not know the "official" reason for the killing, one thing we do know is that Brother Thomas had misdemeanor traffic tickets. We know he ran from the police. We know that he was killed. We know the alleged initial statement by the officer was that Thomas was "reaching" for something. We know that was a lie.

Officer Stephen Roach, the police officer who shot Thomas, now faces two separate indictments, both misdemeanors. He is charged with negligent homicide and obstructing official business, both of which are misdemeanors and carry a maximum of nine months in jail. However, a person found guilty of these charges, if he or she does not have a previous record, is not likely to go to jail, especially if he or she is white.

Yes, irony of ironies. If this does not convince you of the gross, in-your-face disparities that exist in our "criminal injustice" system, I donít know what will. Even though a few years ago a national commission told the country these disparities exist, we still kept our heads in the sand. Denial of the information from that commission will get you exactly what we have here in Cincinnati: A Black man who failed to buckle his seatbelt, and ran from the police because he had misdemeanor charges, ends up murdered by a white officer who gets charged with two misdemeanors for his actions.

And some white people are still asking, "Whatís the problem?" "Why are Black people so angry?" "Why are Blacks marching and obstructing business in downtown?" "Why are Black people not satisfied with officer Roachís indictment?" "Donít Blacks understand that if they prevent the downtown and Over-the-Rhine businesses from making money they will eventually move?" "Donít they know that the tax base will be eroded if these businesses are not allowed to continue to make money?" "What about the jobs these businesses provide? What will happen to those employees of the bars and the restaurants and the antique shops and all of the other effected businesses?"

The list goes on and on, but I think you get the point. The hue and cry regarding the after-effects of the Timothy Thomas murder did not go up until the businesses began to lose money. The mayor of Cincinnati really got upset when one of downtown Cincinnatiís major events, "Jamminí On Main," was cancelled. By the way, it is a predominantly white-attended event. All of the bands that play in the event are white as well.

The gnashing of teeth did not really start until the prospect of more dollars being lost came to the fore. Major corporate heads called for meetings with city officials to put an end to what they perceived as the real problem. They were faced with losing money, and they were not about to take that lying down. Itís funny how money always seems to creep into the picture at times like these. I always say, if you peel back enough layers on any problem you will eventually get to economics.

So now the irony of ironies in our injustice system has evolved into a money issueóas I knew it would sooner or later. The cat is out of the bag, as they say. I donít know what the next chapter of this unbelievable story will be, but I assure you it will interesting. The mayor has formed a commission, but strangely enough there has been no allocation or even mention of money for the group, as if mere talk will solve the problem.

Yes, it will be very interesting, but I doubt if Cincinnati or any other city can top the latest irony we witnessed when Prosecutor Mike Allen announced his indictment of Officer Roach for the murder of Timothy Thomas.

Stephen Roach received misdemeanor charges for murder. Timothy Thomas received murder for misdemeanor charges.

(James Clingman is the author of the new book, "Blackonomics." Contact him at 513-489-4132 or see website: www.Blackonomics.com)

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