Peaceful protests turn violent in Over-the-Rhine, Downtown Cincinnati

Protests in Over-the-Rhine and Downtown Cincinnati resulted in broken windows and some arrests.
Protests in Over-the-Rhine and Downtown Cincinnati resulted in broken windows and some arrests.(WXIX)
Updated: May. 30, 2020 at 2:37 AM EDT
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CINCINNATI (FOX19) - A protest in Cincinnati over George Floyd’s death that began peacefully Friday night ended in shattered windows, looting and arrests in Over-the-Rhine and downtown.

The loud pop of smoke bombs punctured the air through early Saturday morning as the protest continued past midnight.

Later, the sight of police in riot gear amid Vine Street’s murals, restaurants and boutiques provided an uncanny juxtaposition, recalling the neighborhood’s 2001 riots as well as its redevelopment in the years since.

Many of those same restaurants and boutiques were left with their window shattered Saturday morning, a heartbreaking result for some local residents who began the night supportive of the protesters’ aims.

Police made continuous efforts to disperse the crowd, pushing them through the neighborhood from Pendleton to Washington Park and beyond.

At last around 1 a.m. the protest seemed to break up, but bands of protesters continued to taunt and goad police officers, and general unrest persisted.

City councilperson Jeff Pastor was seen out trying to calm protesters. In a Facebook Live video he posted, he said: “A fourteen-year-old kid, or anybody that is out here, no matter what frustration or anger you have, this is not the way to do it in Cincinnati.

“I know that people are upset, but this is not right. This should not be this way. People are fed up, I understand that. But you’re not gonna do it this way. It’s wrong.”

Helicopters began circling the neighborhood shortly after 1 a.m.

CPD issued the following statement to media outlets at 1:30 a.m.:

"Please understand we are dealing with several groups engaging in violent behavior in the downtown & OTR neighborhoods. Please advise your audiences that they should avoid this area as we attempt to stabilize these disturbances. If people do not have a legitimate reason to be in this area they should disperse. Thank you for communicating this to your viewers.

“As many of your reporters have reported from the field tonight there have been numerous buildings and businesses that have sustained property damage and likely theft of merchandise. Our primary effort right now is to stabilize this area and seek cooperation and calm from the groups engaging in violent and turbulent behavior. We will provide more details as this evolves related to property damage, thefts and any arrests that may have occurred. Please encourage your audiences and your reporters to use caution in this area. Stress that we are encouraging protesters to do so peacefully.”

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Protests across Downtown Cincinnati, OTR in response to George Floyd's death

The protest started about 6 p.m. outside the Hamilton County Courthouse on Main Street in Downtown Cincinnati.

From there, the crowd marched through Over-the-Rhine to Cincinnati Police District 1 headquarters in the West End, to Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine and then back to District 1, where several in the crowd yelled profanities and insults at officers standing just feet away behind barriers in front of the glass front doors.

Some held signs with messages such as “No Justice No Peace” and “Disarm the Police." Others took turns giving speeches, shouting into the crowd with a megaphone.

At times, they chanted “Black Lives Matter," “No Justice, No Peace" and “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!”

The march then took protesters through the West End around 8:45 p.m. and up the Bank Street ramp onto the interstate, where they blocked traffic for several minutes before police, including many in riot gear, cleared them out.

Traffic resumed, but a large crowd gathered again outside Cincinnati Police District 1 headquarters around 10 p.m.

CPD Chief Eliot Isaac came out to speak with some of the protesters.

Around 10:45 p.m., the crowd headed to back to the Hamilton County Courthouse, then to the Hamilton County Justice Center, where a window was smashed and the once-peaceful hit its breaking point.

From there police in riot gear employing bicycles as mobile barricades began corralling protesters and pushing them west. Occasionally they used what appeared to be flash grenades and smoke bombs.

Around midnight, reports came in of protesters having thrown rocks at businesses in Over-the-Rhine, shattering their windows.

City Gear’s windows were broken, and looters rushed in. Revolution Rotisserie’s windows were also broken, as were the windows of Mica 12/V and The Most Beautiful Thing in the World.

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It’s not clear who organized the rally or when.

Two other rallies are reportedly planned for noon Saturday, protesters have said.

One will be at Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati and the other will take place at Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine.

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