It was a little after 2 a.m., and police had already blocked off Main Street to traffic. A handful of officers had their hands full breaking up the shouting matches occasionally flaring from a crowd of nearly 200 people spread over two blocks in the heart of Main Street's bar district.
"All the white, glitzy, suburbanite people were moving around glaring at the urban youth, and the punk-ass guys were fighting and laughing at the wholesome folks in their tight clothes," says Jason Bruffy, who witnessed the scene.
Most of the fights didn't escalated above verbal pissing contests.
Most, but not all: A mass of men spun down the middle of Main Street until one figure pulled ahead and it became clear the half dozen or more others were running him down.
Then the knot re-congealed in front of a white van waiting for a light to change at St. Mary's Square on 12th and Main. After 30 seconds of flailing limbs, a knife flew out of the roiling mound and skittered to a stop in the middle of the street.
The men quickly scattered. One young black man ambled north on Main, mostly succeeding in looking chill except for blood spattered across the right shoulder of his T-shirt. A voice called out, "Man, take off your shirt." He dropped it to the ground and continued up Main without breaking stride.
One man still lay prone on the street, trying in vain to lift himself off his side. Finally someone helped him up and they melded into the crowds heading south down the street.
By the time the flashing lights of a police cruiser cut through the remaining drunken melee, there was nothing left of the fight to see.
However, at 2:46 a.m. a call to 911 reported two stabbing victims in the emergency room of Christ Hospital, according to Fran Cihon of the Cincinnati Police Department's Public Information Office. She said the victims had come from Jekyll and Hyde's, one of the bars near St. Mary's Square.
The police report names three stabbing victims. A 20-year-old black male, Deandre Richardson of Corryville, suffered a stab wound to his neck from an "unknown suspect" who "stabbed victims with a knife, causing severe injuries," according to the report's short narrative. Saed Elkahla, a 33-year-old white male from Silverton, received a severe cut on his right wrist. Antonio Campbell, an 18-year-old black man from Over-the-Rhine, was stabbed in the right arm. All three were taken in by friends and transferred to University Hospital.
What struck this reporter about witnessing the incident, and what some people concerned about violence in Over-the-Rhine and elsewhere don't seem to understand, is that random violence delivered by a stranger is unusual. I never felt threatened; I wasn't in anybody's face. Which doesn't make me or anyone else immune, of course.
But when politicians are talking about black-on-black crime, they're not talking about race. They're talking about a culture in which people who know each other use violence to address their problems. In our city and others, that culture happens to be predominantly both black and poor.
So it is that, as we enter a new year, Cincinnatians can stand a dozen feet apart and yet the distance between their respective worlds seems impassable.
All The News That Fits: Leads, entrails and tales we couldn't get to.