CINCINNATI (AP) Promising to make police more accountable, the mayor lifted a citywide curfew yesterday that helped end days of rioting over the police shooting of an unarmed black man.

Paul Wong
Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken talks to reporters during a press conference at City Hall in downtown Cincinnati yesterday.<br><br>AP PHOTO

“Now that the disturbances have subsided, they must never occur again,” Mayor Charles Luken said. “We have an opportunity for a new Cincinnati.”

However, the mayor did not lift a state of emergency, which allows him to impose curfews and other restrictions.

The 8 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew was imposed Thursday after three nights of arson, looting, attacks on white motorists and clashes with police.

Dozens of people were injured, more than 800 were arrested and arson damage was put at more than $200,000 in the worst racial unrest in Cincinnati since the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

The streets were mostly quiet over the weekend, and city officials had hoped to lift the curfew because it was hurting businesses. The curfew was scaled back to 11 p.m. Sunday to allow more time for Easter celebrations.

Joining Luken at a news conference were religious, business and community leaders who have been discussing ways to address underlying causes of the violence.

“If we put our heads back in the sand, that sand will once again grow hot with rage. The opportunity will be lost,” said Ross Love, speaking on behalf of black community leaders.

The Rev. Damon Lynch, a black clergyman, said the city”s black youths do not know how to channel their anger. “They just feel like nobody”s listening,” he said. “Their anger is not just at officers, but their own black leadership. The feeling is we”re not listening, and we have to turn that around.”

About 300 people attended a teen forum yesterday at the New Friendship Baptist Church. Many blamed middle-aged black leaders for Cincinnati”s problems.

“The older generation could have prevented this,” said Derrick Blassingame, 15, president of the newly formed Black Youth Coalition Against Civil Injustice. “Our black leaders are not leading us.”

Angela Leisure, whose son was killed April 7 by a police officer, urged black youths to be active in peaceful protests.

“I don”t want to see anybody else hurt,” she said. “Let my son be the last one.”

Luken said he will appoint a commission to look into solutions. Unlike previous groups, he said, the panel will be able to oversee implementation of its plans. That would require City Council approval.

The City Council planned to meet today to discuss demands by black leaders for a city ordinance allowing officials to bypass Cincinnati police officers and firefighters when hiring new chiefs.

The city charter requires chiefs to be promoted from the ranks, but black leaders say that perpetuates problems. The 1,000-member police force is 28 percent black the city of 311,000 is 43 percent black.

Cincinnati was sued last month by citizen groups who accused the police department of failing to end 30 years of police harassment of blacks.

The flash point for the protests was the fatal shooting April 7 of Timothy Thomas, 19, as he fled from officers trying to arrest him on 14 warrants, mostly for traffic offenses.

The FBI, police and the county prosecutor are investigating the shooting by Officer Stephen Roach, who is white. Roach, 27, was placed on paid administrative leave.

Fifteen blacks and no whites have died in confrontations with police since 1995, four of them since November.

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