United Church Of Christ Joins Boycott

CLEVELAND (AP) - The United Church of Christ on Wednesday joined an economic boycott of Cincinnati that black activists organized following the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man.

"The boycott in our judgment is important to pressure leadership toward meaningful change," said the Rev. John H. Thomas, president of the United Church of Christ.

Bernice Powell Jackson, executive minister for justice and witness ministries, said the boycott means not traveling to Cincinnati for meetings or leisure activities.

Thomas said there was overwhelming support from church leaders to back the boycott. The church -- headquartered in Cleveland -- has 1.4 million members.

"For too long, African-Americans have had to survive on a tilted playing field, without adequate opportunities for job training and employment," Thomas said.

The boycott began after the April 2001 fatal police shooting of Timothy Thomas, 19, touched off three days of riots.

Entertainers Bill Cosby, Wynton Marsalis, the Temptations and the O'Jays have canceled scheduled Cincinnati appearances. The Union of Black Episcopalians canceled plans to hold its national convention in Cincinnati this summer.

Demands of boycotters include providing millions of dollars for inner-city development projects and programs to benefit blacks, and fairer treatment of blacks by the police department.

Cincinnati officials in April signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to tighten police policies governing use of force, enhance training, improve recordkeeping and create an independent agency to investigate citizen complaints of police brutality.

Its city council in April approved the settlement of a lawsuit that accused police of a continuing pattern of harassing black people.

U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott will conduct a hearing Thursday to consider whether the settlement is fair.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)