The Center for Constitutional Rights visited Cincinnati to release its report on the findings of the hearing convened by CCR at the University of Cincinnati in May, 2003. The visit included meetings with local area officials, both public and private, business leaders and members of the Boycott Council to discuss progress in addressing the crisis affecting Black communities in Cincinnati and CCR’s recommendations for future steps to be taken. Executive Director Ron Daniels made the following statement:
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) views the struggle for social, economic and racial justice in Cincinnati as a microcosm of similar struggles in urban inner-city communities across the country. It is for this reason that many national organizations continue to keep an eye on this city to learn whether or not a just resolution can be found to the multiple crises affecting impoverished Black neighborhoods here. Accordingly, we have distributed copies of the Report of the Proceedings of the National Hearing conducted by CCR last year widely to organizations around the country to provide an update on the status of the Boycott and the grievances and issues which precipitated the economic sanctions campaign.
Our visit to Cincinnati to release this Report is intended to continue or open a dialogue with various stakeholders in hopes that sustained progress towards the resolution of the crisis might be stimulated. In that regard, we were pleased to have meetings with key public and private sector leaders as well as the Boycott Council and its allies.
On balance, I think it is fair to say that the milestone Collaborative Community Partnering Plan for Community Problem Oriented Policing shows promise, over time, for effectively addressing the longstanding issues of police abuse and misconduct in this city. The recent investment of $9million by the private sector to fund the Community Partnering Center is a critical step forward in this regard and must be seen as an important outcome of the unfortunate civil unrest of April 2001 and the subsequent mobilization of the community to demand redress of grievances. Though the jury is still out, and despite recent incidents which have justifiably caused alarm in the community, the good faith engagement of all parties in the process would seem to portend positive results in the long run.
Given some modicum of progress in the area of police-community relations, the issues of social and economic inequality and injustice constitute the most stubborn obstacles to a long term solution to the impasse between the Boycott Council and the public and private sectors as it relates to ending the Boycott/economic sanctions campaign. Indeed, to the degree that there is a causal effect between poverty, social inequities, violence and crime, it is entirely possible that prospects for progress in the area of police-community relations could be undermined by the lack of substantial progress in eradicating social, economic and racial inequality in Cincinnati.
Second, reforming the political system to create an electoral process which makes elected officials in the legislative branch more accountable to particular districts remains an issue which must be eventually addressed and resolved. We would suggest that the noted lawyer and political analyst Lani Guinier be brought in for a series of consultations to explore ways and means of addressing this issue. She has written widely about devising methods for creating systems which enhance accountability to constituencies who feel that their interests and aspirations are not being properly heard in the electoral process. In that regard, it is important to note that it is not necessarily the case that someone elected from a particular constituency will represent the interests of that constituency if the means for holding him/her accountable are inadequate.
Based on these observations, our major conclusion is that a way must be found for the Boycott Council, the City and private sector leaders to enter into direct negotiations to agree on a process and agenda for discussing and resolving the root causes of the Boycott. Such a process should include targets and timetables for concrete steps to be taken to address and resolve specific problems/issues/concerns. And, for such a process to gain momentum there must be a fairly immediate success story in terms of addressing an issue identified by the Boycott Council which is resolved in a manner that serves as a confidence building outcome.
As noted in the report, we caution against circumventing the Boycott Council and the disaffected constituencies and allies they represent. While making “progress” without the Boycott Council may initially yield a sense of comfort that their efforts will dissipate, ultimately dealing directly with the affected and disaffected constituencies whose voices have been raised in the demand for justice will produce more stable and lasting results.
Next Steps for CCR
1. At the request of the Boycott Council, a legal team at CCR is currently evaluating various documents detailing the social, economic and racial disparities and inequities in Cincinnati to determine whether there is a basis for legal action to address or resolve some of the key grievances and demands articulated by the Boycott Council.
2. CCR has also agreed to convene a meeting of national organizations in Washington, D.C. in the near future to afford the Boycott Council an opportunity to discuss the status of the Boycott/economic sanctions campaign and the various issues that they are demanding be addressed and resolved.
3. CCR is committed to maintaining an open line of communications with all parties to do whatever is reasonable to facilitate a resolution to the Boycott.