Rebellion in Cincinnati; but where are all the radicals and Anarchists?
“Do you feel him [mayor] Luken? No, you don’t! Cuz you’re going to lunch after this!”
– Black youth during Cincinnati City Council hearing after another demanded justice for Timothy Thomas
City Council’s normal Monday meeting was stormed by hundreds of angry Black residents of Cincinnati on April 9th after an unarmed Black youth, Timothy Thomas, was shot and murdered the previous Saturday by a Cincy cop. Demanding something be done about Thomas’s murder, the crowd began to get frustrated as city council members ignored and outright disrespected them. Soon after more and more people gathered and shared their anger and pain at Timothy’s death and the rampant violence of Cincinnati cops, often aimed at the poor and mostly Black residents of the Over The Rhine area. By the end of the night an organic and spontaneous rebellion had erupted which lasted well over three days, with its height coming Tuesday when thousands protested and fought back as police tried to enforce martial law, ‘Nati style. By the time of Timothy Thomas’s funeral a week after his death, the police and their mayor’s curfew had captured and arrested over 800 people, many being tagged with bogus felonies and excessively high bails.
While thousands in the ‘Nati reclaimed their streets, fought back against police attacks, hurled whatever they could find at riot cop lines, and broke the windows of numerous corporate stores and banks, this was far from being a national protest planned months in advance with medical teams, affinity groups and a convergence zone. This rebellion was sparked by the anger and desires of local, mostly poor Black folks who were fed up with being harassed, beaten, and killed by the Cincinnati police. And for all the talk about “local issues,” “working with the community,” and the need for spontaneous direct action, there were relatively few white radicals or Anarchists who were doing much of anything in Cincy to show solidarity with the uprising. While there were notable exceptions, especially local members of Anti-Racist Action and Refuse & Resist who did support work and even ran the streets with the urban rebels, the overall feel of the Cincy actions were devoid of any serious amount of anti-authoritarian support.
“Be part of the solution or get out of the way!”
– Woman to police and city council at Cincinnati City Council meeting
While actions against US-controlled institutions of global financial domination like the World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund and the Free Trade Area of the Americas are extremely important and serve numerous purposes in building revolution in the United States, the questions of justice and strategy arise when events like Cincinnati pop up. If Anarchists take the fight against oppression seriously it is time to reevaluate our priorities.
Attacking white supremacy should be key to any Anarchist/anti-authoritarian strategy in the US, and one of the most important issues in doing that is police brutality. The majority of the people who were out in the streets of Cincy were from the same hood as Timothy Thomas, Over-The-Rhine, a predominantly Black and poor part of Cincinnati. If Anarchists are to be taken seriously by some of the most oppressed folks in the US they need to be getting down with them, not merely keeping their critique to themselves or within Anarchist circles. Whether its running the streets, doing benefit and support work for the over 800 arrested, or attending Timothy Thomas’s funeral, Anarchists in the surrounding area of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Kentucky should have stopped shining their boots in preparation for Quebec and jolted for Cincinnati.
“You have not seen anything as of yet.”
– Black man speaking to Mayor Luken at City Council meeting.
Hopefully this applies to the future of revolutionary Anarchist organizing as well. If Anarchists are to prove themselves worthy of the trust of masses of some of the most oppressed people in the US, as well as introduce the concept of Anarchism as a serious alternative and possibility, getting into the streets during incidents like the Cincinnati rebellion should receive priority over planned and more convenient protests.
The people who rose up, and are still extremely angry and full of passion, in the ‘Nati after Timothy Thomas’s murder have so much to gain from going from rebellion to building revolution and little, if anything, to lose by preserving the current social, political, and economic structure of the US. From a strategic – and moral – point of view, Anarchists should clearly see the importance of prioritizing sections of the US population that face super-exploitation as workers and oppressed nationalities. The future of revolutionary Anarchism should lie within the hands of these people. They will be the ones to ignite the fire that sets the US prairie ablaze with revolt. Get down with them or get out of the way.
J-Uprising is a northeast Ohio revolutionary Anarchist who is involved with the liberation struggle on numerous different levels.