Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Ya Want a Riot ?

While we approach the 10th anniversary of the 2001 riots of Cincinnati, we also approach the 127th anniversary of the 1884 riots. Compared to the 1884 riots, 2001's was like Spring Break. While 2001's had to do with police shootings that were frequently totally justified, 1884's was more about an alarming murder rate & the inability of a justice system to deal with the problem. In 1883 there were 96 murders compared to 2010's 72.
A Cincinnati Enquirer article titled "The College of Murder" stated:
"Laxity of laws gives the Queen City of the West its crimson record. Pre-eminence in art, science, and industry avail nothing where murder is rampant and the lives of citizens are unsafe even in broad daylight."
Cincinnati wasn't involved in prohibition back then. Unlike today, innocent people were at high risk.
As we look at our homicide rate & police force today, we can compare it to 1883.
The population of the city is fairly stagnant at about 333,000. Between 1880 & 1890 the population rose from 255.000 to 296,000. With over 1,000 police officers today armed with networked computers & phones / radios & cars that can cruise at 100 MPH, the police force of 1884 was comprised of 300 officers who had whistles an a few wagons. More than tripling the manpower & adding all the hardware has reduced homicide by about 25%. Maybe it's not the police - maybe it's prohibition.
Anyway, 12/24/1883 2 guys brutally murdered their boss & dumped him in the Mill Creek. They were caught & pretty much confessed immediately. Pretty cut & dried. One guy was mulatto & the other white. in March of 1884 the white guy was tried & sentenced to 20 years for manslaughter. People were outraged. A. - the laxity on the white guy and B. - the unfairness that the mulatto was likely going to get hanged (he was) sparked anger in the citizenry. Urged on by the Enquirer, folks met at Music Hall on March 28 & then marched on the courthouse to mete out the justice the murderers deserved. Police & the Sheriff's department stalwartly defended the courthouse & jail. Sheriff Morton Hawkins refused to use deadly force on the rioters (which was basically all they had). The small band of law enforcement officers was no match for the 10,000 rioters, however. National Guard was called in from Columbus, Dayton & Springfield. The guys from Dayton said, forget it. Columbus & Springfield forces had no qualms about using deadly force. Columbus brought a daggone gatling gun! Somewhere in the chaos attorney & militia captain, William Desmond, was shot and killed by a National Guardsman while he tried to defend the courthouse. That's his statue in the lobby of the current courthouse. In the end 56 people were killed and the courthouse burned including countless county records and a renowned law library.
There weren't any radio or TV stations back then - no helicopters to follow the white Bronco, so the papers published "extras" to keep people up to date. Joan Asche compiled a bunch into one document to tell the story. PDF
There aree certainly better articles on this subject. What inspired this post, however, was finding a mess of pics of the burnt courthouse at the Cincinnati Historical Society's website. These guys are so secretive & require so many oaths & vows, you'd think the History Channel & Alex Jones would be doing shows on 'em constantly. Anyway, ALL PHOTOS IN THIS POSTING COME FROM THE CINCINNATI HISTORICAL SOCIETY'S ONLINE PHOTO ARCHIVE located here their keywords are pretty wack, of course.

The Law Library


Court of Common Pleas

Barricade with cool effect in the sky from a damaged negative

Article by Mark Painter in a 2003 Fishwrap here.

Wikipedia article here.

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