A rally will be held at Fountain Square today to commemorate the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin and to demand a thorough investigation of the incident.
The event begins at 5 p.m. and attendees are asked to bring signs that aren’t posted on sticks, to comply with a local law, and also to wear hooded jackets. Martin, 17, was wearing a “hoodie” when George Zimmerman allegedly killed him Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla.
Rallies have been held across the nation during the past week to protest the handling of Martin’s case. Many of the participants have worn hoodies in a show of solidarity with the slain teenager, often carrying signs that state, “I am Trayvon Martin.”
Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory posted a similar photograph on his Facebook page over the weekend. It’s unclear if Mallory plans to attend today’s rally.
Among the groups organizing the rally are Occupy The Hood and the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center.
Zimmerman, 28, who says he belongs to a neighborhood watch program in his gated community, began following Martin at about 7 p.m. for what he described in a 911 call as “suspicious behavior.” Martin was walking back to his father’s condominium after buying iced tea for himself and Skittles for his soon-to-be stepbrother.
"This guy looks like he's up to no good, on drugs or something," Zimmerman told a 911 dispatcher.
Some sort of encounter occurred that resulted in Martin’s death. Sanford Police didn’t arrest Zimmerman, saying that it appeared he acted in self-defense.
Sanford Police accepted Zimmerman’s version of events at face value. “Until we can establish probable cause to dispute that, we don't have the grounds to arrest him,” Sanford Police Chief Billy Lee told ABC News earlier this month.
After the incident became publicized through Facebook, Twitter and other social media, public outcry grew. More than 2 million people have signed an online petition demanding justice, and the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department have launched investigations.
Nearly two years after she filed the lawsuit, a congresswoman who lost in the March primary election has dropped her legal action against a political opponent.
A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Miami Township) told The Enquirer today that she decided to drop her defamation lawsuit against Madeira businessman David Krikorian. Schmidt filed the suit in June 2010, and had sought $6.8 million in damages.
Krikorian is claiming victory in the dispute, and told CityBeat the lawsuit was an intimidation tactic by well-funded special interests.
“Her lawsuit was entirely without merit,” Krikorian said. “It was meant to silence and intimidate me and cost me money. It did not work.”
Krikorian ran as an independent against Schmidt in 2008; he unsuccessfully ran in the Democratic primary for the same seat in 2010 and again this year.
During the ‘08 campaign, Krikorian distributed a pamphlet alleging Schmidt had received “blood money” from the Turkish government in return for her opposition to a congressional resolution that declared Turkey had committed genocide against Armenia during a 1915 conflict.
But the lawsuit proved to be Schmidt’s undoing. She received more than $400,000 in free legal assistance from the Turkish Coalition of America to support her suit. In August 2011 the House Ethics Committee ruled that Schmidt received an “impermissible gift” but didn’t “knowingly” violate the law. She was ordered to repay the coalition, which she has yet to do.
Shortly thereafter, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a nonpartisan watchdog group, dubbed Schmidt as one of the most corrupt members of Congress.
All of the drama took its toll: Schmidt lost the GOP primary earlier this month to challenger Brad Wenstrup. He defeated her 49-43 percent.
“It’s time to move on,” Barrett Brunsman, Schmidt’s spokesman, told The Enquirer today about dropping the lawsuit.
The Turkish Coalition of America was among Schmidt’s top contributors, donating $7,500 to her 2010 reelection campaign through its political action committee, and donating $7,600 to her in 2008.
Schmidt also traveled to Turkey at least twice while in office. The coalition picked up the tab for one of the trips.
Politico reported March 12 that Schmidt was in Washington, D.C., on Election Day, March 6, at a private luncheon with Turkish Ambassador Namik Tan.
“At times, Rep. Jean Schmidt has been closer to Turkish interests than those of her Cincinnati-area constituents,” Politico’s Jonathan Allen wrote. “Never was that proximity problem more telling than on Tuesday, when Republicans denied Schmidt renomination to run for another term.”
When Allen sought comment for the article, Brunsman refused to confirm if the meeting occurred and sent an email that stated, “I think you have lost your way.”
For his part, Krikorian said the experience has taught him that Ohio needs to pass legislation that penalizes lawsuits filed solely to silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their opposition. Such a tactic is known as a “strategic lawsuit against public participation,” or SLAPP.
“I think the Ohio Legislature should consider passing an anti-SLAPP statue to prevent these kinds of abuses of the legal process,” he said. “This lawsuit was an attempt to intimidate and silence me by Rep. Schmidt and the Turkish lobby.”
Krikorian apparently lost in the March 6 Democratic primary by just 59 votes to William R. Smith, a virtual unknown from Pike County who didn’t campaign, answer questionnaires or grant interviews. A recount is under way and Krikorian has asked for a federal investigation of Victory Ohio Super PAC, which made robo-calls on Smith’s behalf but isn’t registered with the Federal Election Commission.
Krikorian picked up 14 more votes in Hamilton County on provisional ballots once the results were certified. Meanwhile, Clermont County certifies its results on Tuesday.
Although no one seems to want to comment directly on the situation, more details are emerging about the bitter political dispute between Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Berding and several anti-streetcar groups.
Hamilton County Judge Carl Stitch today ruled against granting a temporary restraining order that would prevent the trio that owns and leases the Emery Theatre from evicting the nonprofit seeking to renovate the building.
The ruling comes as a minor victory to the University of Cincinnati, Emery Center Apartments Limited Partnership (ECALP) and the Emery Center Corporation (ECC), the groups that own and lease the Emery Theatre, and a loss to the Requiem Project, the nonprofit formed in 2008 to restore the theater to its former glory.
Still, Stitch cautioned that both sides potentially have a case and the rejection shouldn’t be seen as indicative of who will ultimately win the legal battle.
Given the ruling, both sides agreed to come back to the judge in 30 days with a status report on what their legal intentions are going forward.
Requiem argued that it needs the temporary restraining order to continue with the momentum the organization has built to renovate the theater. The nonprofit says it needs a permanent lease to use and raise funds that would go toward restoring the theater, which is cited as one of the few “acoustically pure” complexes in the nation.
On the other side, the various groups that own and lease the Emery Theatre claimed Requiem has shown little progress in raising funds to renovate the building. They said they would still like to see the theater restored, but not under the management of Requiem.
UC also continued denying any direct involvement in the case, instead arguing that ECALP handles the Emery building in its entirety for the university.
Tina Manchise and Tara Gordon, the two women who founded Requiem, said after the hearing that the three organizations are trying to eschew responsibility by pointing fingers at each other. In particular, they pointed out that UC has consistently claimed a lack of culpability, yet it’s also getting involved by asking the city to take over the building.
Last week, emails revealed that UC is offering to give the Emery Theatre to the city. UC Vice President of Governmental Relations Greg Vehr wrote in a June 21 email to Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan that giving the building away would allow the university to avoid becoming “a lightning rod in the private dispute between (ECC and ECALP) and the Requiem Project.”
If the city takes over the building, the legal dispute would likely become unnecessary and Requiem would probably be allowed to carry on with its plans.
For an in-depth look at the situation and history between Requiem and UC, ECALP and ECC, check out CityBeat’s original coverage here.
A prominent Republican congressman is under investigation for insider trading. U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), who heads the House Financial Services Committee, is being probed by the Office of Congressional Ethics for making suspicious trades and buying certain stock options while helping oversee the nation’s banking and financial services industries.
Between tweeting happily about U.S. Rep. John Murtha’s death and gloating over Cincinnati losing out on federal funding for its proposed streetcar project, an anti-tax group has also posted on its blog about something more substantive: A legal victory against an Ohio law it said was unconstitutional.