Racial Tension in Cincinnati Spills Over into Fire Department

CINCINNATI, OHIO � Some 100 members of the African-American Firefighters Association want to break with the Cincinnati Fire Fighters Labor Union, according to a WLWT Eyewitness News report. The firefighters who signed the petition for the withdrawal charged that the union has failed to support women and minorities in controversial issues. African-American Firefighters Association President Jeff Harris, Jr., says the problem is compounded by the fact that the union�s executive board has no black member.

Harris referred to comments by speakers at the funeral for Tim Thomas, the 19-year-old black man killed by Stephen Roach, a white police officer, on April 7. Black men and black women were urged to stand up, Harris noted. But, he said, their union treats them like second class citizens.

Officer Roach was attempting to arrest Thomas on 14 outstanding warrants predominantly for traffic violations. No gun was recovered at the scene. Earlier reports had indicated that Roach shot Thomas because he thought his life was in danger because he saw Thomas reaching for a weapon while they were in a dark alley. Three days of arson, looting, and attacks on motorists followed the shooting. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating whether Thomas� civil rights were violated. The case has been referred to a Hamilton County grand jury.

About 35 percent of Cincinnati�s firefighters are black; approximately 70 percent of them belong to the black firefighter�s association.

(References: Terry Daniels, WLWT ChannelCincinnati.com, Apr. 17, 2001; �Cincinnati Youth Criticize Leaders,� ABCNEWS.com, Apr. 17, 2001)

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