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Judges Continue To Dismiss Cases Against Cincinnati Black Lives Matter Demonstrators

george floyd protest cincinnati
Jason Whitman

Updated Dec. 10.

Two more Hamilton County judges have dismissed charges against 66 people arrested this spring during Black Lives Matter demonstrations, bringing the total number of cases dismissed to 101, or roughly one-fifth of the total number of arrests.

Rulings Dec. 3 by Judge Ted N. Berry and Dec. 9 by Judge Brad Greenberg align with an earlier decision that a curfew put in place during the May and June protests was "unconstitutionally vague." About 375 cases remain before 10 additional judges.

A judge in Hamilton County Thursday dismissed charges against 35 people arrested during Black Lives Matter protests in Cincinnati between May 29 and June 1.

These are some of the first cases to come to resolution following the spring demonstrations sparked by the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others. Some 500 people were arrested, charged with violating a curfew ordered by Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley.

On Nov. 19, Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Janaya Trotter Bratton was the first to dismiss the charges, finding the curfew order "unconstitutionally vague."

"The curfew is fatally flawed in many respects," Trotter Bratton writes. "As a starting point, it is absolutely unclear as to who the curfew applies. The Emergency Curfew Orders declare the curfew inapplicable to city of Cincinnati officials, members of the public safety forces, emergency personnel, health care professionals, essential workers, people experiencing homelessness, and local government officials engaged in their lawful duties. These listed exceptions do nothing to help individuals determine whether they are subject to the order."

Trotter Bratton also points out the order did not specify what jobs were considered essential, nor did it outline "what, if any, violation of law the citizen commits if s/he is out past curfew. The curfew does not affix any penalty to violating the curfew."

According to the court document, Cincinnati sought to change the charges from first degree misdemeanors to fourth degree. It indicates the city could refile charges under the lesser charge if it chooses.

"The decision today marks a victory in the fight against the arrests, the prosecutions, that targeted and attempted to silence the movement for Black liberation and people who are engaging in their first amendment rights in support of Black lives," says attorney Jacqueline Greene with the Cincinnati Mass Defense Coalition and a partner with Friedman and Gilbert.

There are now about 375 similar cases pending before other judges. Greene says the same argument for dismissal is being argued in those cases as well..

"The Cincinnati Mass Defense Coalition will continue to fight for the dismissal of all those cases as well," she adds.

This story was originally published Nov. 19, 2020.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.