Main Street residents speak out

Barricades put up by the City of Cincinnati to prevent gun violence draw ire

By Tess Brewer, Staff Writer

The regular bustle on Main Street in Over-The-Rhine (OTR) has looked different these past three weeks, following restrictions put in place by city administration and police in the wake of the mass shooting on Aug. 7.

 These measures, including metal barricades and a heightened police presence, have impacted residents and small businesses in the area.

Prior to the shooting, weekend nights on Main Street saw the sidewalks busy with activity. Now metal bike racks, which line the sidewalks stretching from south Liberty Street to Central Parkway, limit access to the walkway up and down the street.

Cincinnati city administration and police put up the barricades to limit loitering, which they say gave rise to the shooting. The restrictions, along with no metered parking on Friday and Saturday nights until Dec. 31 and increased police presence, were enacted by city officials and police in an attempt to prevent gun violence.

Local residents and community members have since expressed their unhappiness with the restricted Main Street sidewalks.

Photo courtesy of flickr.com

“The barricades need to go… If you guys say that you have the people in custody that did the crime, why must you persecute everybody else for an issue that was caused by people who aren’t local?” one local OTR resident said.

While the city’s plan for barricade restrictions stated that the Americans with  Disabilities Act would be maintained, some residents with mobility issues still found it difficult to maneuver with the newly limited accessibility. “I don’t think any of these (barricades) are going to stop a shooting at the end of the day. It’s a huge inconvenience to people like me in a wheelchair, and other people walking down the sidewalk,” Colerain resident Kevin Norris said.

Some small business owners have found that the barricades have had an effect on the normal flow of customers.

“I didn’t feel like it was going to do anything other than deter people from coming down here. It’s definitely done that,” Carl Hunt, owner of GOODS on Main and co-owner of Urban Transit OTR, said. “There’s a little bit of foot traffic last week, but now the barricades are everywhere… There’s no one down here.”

Elisa Fay, owner of Main Street Shop and Studio, also spoke on the effect of the barricades.

 “It’s good to see that they are doing something…I personally don’t think they are helping the business and culture down on Main Street.,” she said.

The restrictions have spurred organizers from Take Back Main Street OTR to put together signs on the barricades to voice their concerns. One organizer, Kelsey Hirtzel-Jennings, was on Main Street protesting the placement of the barricades. “It’s a little reactionary, I feel… less planned out. So, I think that’s what people really want to see, is involvement of the community and less just listening to what the money has to say,” she said.

Dr. Mark Mussman, director of education at the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, shared how the restrictions have impacted the Main Street community. 

“The sidewalks being blocked makes it unwelcoming and forces people to avoid the area. In addition to the newly placed police cameras and lights, closing the street on Friday and Saturday nights has also made it a place where people are avoiding.” Mussman said.

Mussman was asked about the impact the sidewalk barricades could be having onunhoused people. “There are not many organizations who serve people experiencing homelessness on Main Street anymore, so I don’t know if that’s had much of an impact.”

Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval met on Aug. 16 with city leaders and the police department to talk with community members from the Main Street area and discuss the restrictions. He emphasized that the purpose of the new restrictions were about “improving the public safety of the area — things like gun violence and pedestrian safety… while also making sure businesses are thriving and strong,” and not a target at the people living on Main Street.

The mayor mentioned the importance of gathering feedback from citizens on Main Street; the city has created a survey to seek out community input on more creative solutions towards safety on Main Street.

The barricades are temporary, according to the city, but it is still unclear when they will be removed.