From the Worldwide Faith News archives

UCC Leaders, Executive Council Support Boycott of Cincinnati

Date Thu, 6 Jun 2002 13:01:13 -0400

June 5, 2002
United Church of Christ
Proclamation, Identity and Communication Ministry
Ron Buford, press contact

   Today, Leaders at the national offices of the United Church of Christ
(UCC) announced the decision and rationale
of its Executive Council to add the UCC
?s name to a growing list of those
calling for a boycott of the City of Cincinnati.
The boycott comes in the wake of last yearms racial unrest and the cityms
failure to implement promised social and
economic justice reforms. A simultaneous press conference, supported by
Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic
Justice, (composed of the denomination?s African American clergy) was also
held in Cincinnati with local UCC, and
other ecumenical, leaders present.
        This issue has risen to a heightened level of importance for many
UCC leaders and members across the nation.
Such concern compels UCC General Minister and President, the Rev. John H.
Thomas, as well as the Executive Minister
for Justice and Witness Ministries, Bernice Powell Jackson, and UCC
African-American clergy to add their voices to a
growing list religious, civic, civil rights and entertainment leaders who
are calling on the City of Cincinnati to end its
pattern of injustice q a pattern reminiscent of the pre-civil rights era.
        ?The Spirit of the Lord calls us to let the oppressed go free,?
says Thomas, the church?s General Minister and
President. ?For too long, African Americans in Cincinnati have suffered
from poverty, inadequate health care, and
discriminatory treatment.?
        Bernice Powell Jackson, the denomination?s Executive Minister of
Justice and Witness Ministries, adds,
?We know that witnessing for justice is not easy. Old patterns are hard to
change. But it is long past time for racial
justice in Cincinnati.?
        ?We celebrate the progress being made in Cincinnati,? Jackson says.
?The historic agreements which have been
signed regarding the police and racial profiling are important steps toward
racial justice and reconciliation. Now we
call on our church members and all people of faith and good will to
continue the struggle until justice in health, housing,
employment, and education are achieved.?
        ?We affirm our faith in the God who makes all things new,? says
Thomas. ?Through God?s grace and the hard work
of people of faith, we look forward to the dawning of a new heaven, a new
earth, and a new spirit among the people of
    The complete text of the UCC?s Executive Council resolution, and a
statement from Thomas, follow at the end of
this release. Additional statements will be distributed at the press
       The UCC national offices and General Synod speak to but not for its
1.4 million members and 6,000 congregations.

#  #  #  June 2002

Statement from the Rev. John H. Thomas, General Minister and President:

?My name is John Thomas and I am speaking today in my capacity as General
Minister and President of the United Church
of Christ on behalf of our church?s Executive Council.

?Our church has long taken pride in our witness for racial justice. Our
forebears were among the first to speak, preach, and
write against slavery. In the 1800s, many of our churches participated in
the Underground Railroad and other efforts to abolish
slavery.  A century later, we were in the forefront of the struggle for
civil rights.

?Just over a year ago, the issues of race and racism in Cincinnati were
brought to national attention by the civil unrest that
took place there. Members of our staff traveled to Cincinnati in support of
those working in Cincinnati for peace, justice,
and reconciliation. In April of this year, I rejoiced at the signing of the
historic agreement between the City of Cincinnati,
the Black United Front, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Fraternal
Order of Police, and the Justice Department for
reforms in the police system. In May, our Church?s local Assembly, based in
Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky,
wrote to the US District Court in support of the Collaborative Agreement,
and we eagerly look forward to tomorrow?s
Fairness Hearing as a further step towards significant police reforms.

?With our African American sisters and brothers, we are also mindful of the
broad racial disparities which continue to beset
our society. For too long, the dominant society has counseled patience,
while African Americans have suffered from poverty,
inferior health care, and discrimination. For too long, our schools and
neighborhoods have remained segregated. For too
long, African Americans have had to survive on a tilted playing field,
without adequate opportunities for job training and
employment. Our Executive Council therefore stands with those who have
called for a boycott of the city of Cincinnati as
part of a broader struggle for racial and economic justice.

?We know that the process of social change is never easy, but we affirm our
faith in the God who makes all things new. Through
God's grace and the courage and commitment of people of faith, we look
forward to the dawning of a new heaven, a new earth,
and a new spirit of justice in Cincinnati."

Executive Council Resolution
Resolution: Racial Justice in Cincinnati
Adopted by the Executive Council of the United Church of Christ
April 22, 2002
St. Louis, Missouri

?Whereas Timothy Thomas, an unarmed 19-year-old African-American youth was
killed by Stephen Roach, a then-member of the
Cincinnati Police Force who was acquitted of charges last April, triggering
three nights of riots and a city-wide curfew;

?Whereas, a police investigation concluded that former Officer Roach
violated several departmental policies and then changed
his explanation to police investigators about why he fired at and killed

?Whereas, Thomas' mother is calling for a settlement in a federal suit
against the city of Cincinnati which accuses the Cincinnati
Police Force of a 30-year pattern of racial profiling and harassment of
African-Americans, and calls for several major police reforms;

?Whereas, investigations have also begun regarding two officers involved in
another controversial incident, the November 2000
death of Roger Owensby, Jr.;

?Whereas, during the past ten years, 15 African Americans have died as
victims of the use of deadly force by Cincinnati Police;

?Whereas, Cincinnati's own application for ?Empowerment Zone? status in
1998 described many predominantly African-American
neighborhoods as "urban disaster areas" with some neighborhoods having 83%
or more of the population living at or below the
poverty line;

?Whereas, babies born in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood suffered from low
birth weights and inadequate prenatal care at twice
the rate of others born in the same county;

?Whereas, people struggling for justice in Cincinnati have signed a
historic agreement in April, 2002 between the City of Cincinnati,
the Black United Front, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Fraternal
Order of Police, and the Justice Department and proposed
a comprehensive program to address a broad range of racial and social
justice concerns;

?Whereas, the people struggling for justice in Cincinnati have led to the
calling of a boycott on Cincinnati until these issues are
adequately resolved;

?Whereas, many local churches of the United Church of Christ in the
Cincinnati area have been involved in supporting this struggle;

?Therefore, be it resolved that the Executive Council of the United Church
of Christ support the boycott of the city of Cincinnati until
the following proposals of the Black United Front are addressed:

?1. Economic Justice (e.g., economic development, housing, labor rights,
public education, and public health);

?2. Public accountability of the police; including a Cincinnati Citizens
Police Review Panel which has financially and administratively
independent investigative staff; direct subpoena power; and primary
investigative power to look into cases of alleged police misconduct;
an independent evaluation of Police Chief Thomas Streicher; reform of the
current discipline system for police officers; adoption of a
community-policing model, including foot patrols in Over-the-Rhine and
other low-income neighborhoods; the funding of a study by
a credible third party to determine whether Cincinnati Police are complying
with the city's ordinance outlawing racial profiling and
have stopped using excessive force against African-Americans and other
minorities; adoption of a better psychological screening process
for police recruits to reject candidates who may be unable to control
racist, homophobic, or violent tendencies; and increasing the
percentage of African-Americans police officers to reflect the demographics
of the city;

?3. Support and enforcement of civil and human rights, including
investigation into the aggressive prosecution of political protestors
which in some cases denying protesters reasonable bail and a speedy trial
while ignoring the criminal infractions of police officers; support
by the Cincinnati Police Department and the Hamilton County Prosecutors
Office of the right of peaceful protest without arrest or

?4. Repeal of ?Issue 3,? which is now Article XII of the Cincinnati City
Charter which prohibits the city from enforcing equal protection in
housing, public accommodation and employment on the basis of sexual

?5. Amnesty for people arrested for curfew and other violations during the
rebellion against injustice;

?6. Enactment of city government and election reform;

?Be it finally resolved that the Executive Council of the United Church of
Christ be requested to express its support of this resolution to the
Mayor of the City of Cincinnati and to appropriate news media.?

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