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Friday Night's Downtown Protest Escalates Into Violence

downtown protest
Kristen Swilley
Protesters broke large glass windows of the Hamilton County Justice Center, May 29, 2020.

A local protest in honor of George Floyd, a Minneapolis man killed by police, dissolved Friday night from a single organized march into smaller pockets of disruption throughout downtown and Over-the-Rhine.

Police who had observed the daylight portion of the march from the steps of District 1 headquarters threw flashbangs and blocked off streets with their cruisers; some protesters broke storefront windows and knocked out a single large pane of glass at the Hamilton County Justice Center.

The atmosphere had been calm for five hours as the protesters marched Friday night from the Hamilton County courthouse to Washington Park to the center of Interstate 75. Their presence shut down interstate traffic for nearly 45 minutes, but no one was harmed or arrested.

Some marchers held signs reading "ACAB" — a protest slogan that stands for "All Cops Are Bastards" — and "I can't breathe," one of the last things Floyd said before dying with a Minneapolis police officer's knee on his neck. Others raised single fists against the sunset. Nearly all went masked to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 within their closely-packed group.

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Although the now-fired officer who killed Floyd, Derek Chauvin, had been arrested on third-degree murder charges earlier in the evening, protesters across the country returned to the streets Friday night to call for harsher consequences. Some wanted the other three officers involved in Floyd's arrest to be prosecuted. Others wanted a more severe charge for Chauvin.

"3rd degree is not enough," read a sign hoisted in Washington Park.

"CPD, you’re guilty, too," read another. In the upper right-hand corner, the bearer had written the names of Timothy Thomas and Sam DuBose.

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Thomas was 19 years old in 2001, when a white Cincinnati officer shot and killed him in Over-the-Rhine. The protests that followed led to the creation of the Collaborative Agreement, a document meant to help police build positive relationships with black Cincinnatians.

Multiple signs referenced DuBose, an unarmed black man shot to death by white University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing during a 2015 traffic stop. DuBose's death and the subsequent unrest — including protests, national news coverage and two mistrials that resulted in all of Tensing's charges being dismissed — occurred as the Black Lives Matter movement solidified on a national level and probed spots still sore from the memory of 2001.

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