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Akron OH Riot of 1900

Date: Fri, 08 Oct 1999 09:01:23 -0400
From:  Dick Bolt <dickbolt@his.com>
To: OHSUMMIT-L@rootsweb.com
Message-ID: <37FDEB19.319A0150@his.com>
Subject: [OHSUMMIT-L] 1900 Riot in Akron
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  Here it is, Geee thanks folks for the lead . My dad told me this story
Many years ago. He was born in 1888 in Akron, so he was 12 at time of
riot. Why his dad took him, or way the other children that were shot were there is I guess a
sign of the times!
My dad died in 1986. There was 10 printed pages of complete story of
Akron police force history, and only the riot story here .

  To protect and serve
For Akron's men and women in blue, police work sure isn't what it
   used to be

  BY MARK J. PRICE

  Until we get out of this century, the Sunday Beacon Magazine will
cruise around Akron once a month to put together a portrait of the area
at the cusp of the millennium. Each month, we will look at a different
segment of life here, from architecture to movies to music to fast-food.
We  hope that 100 years from now someone can look back on these
portraits and understand the kind of place Akron has been.

  Today, in our ninth installment of ``The World As We Know It,'' we
examine Akron police   history.
There are some among us who believe the end is near.
 They think the new millennium will bring death and destruction. They
think the Y2K computer   bug will infect the world, bringing society to
its knees.

  Akron will be in flames. Crazed mobs will overrun the streets. Police
will be powerless to help.

Actually, that's the way the 20th century began.

The riot of 1900 was a terrifying night in Akron and a galvanizing
moment for the city's police.The city had a population of 42,780 and was
growing as the rubber industry expanded. There were 25 officers on the
Akron police force -- not nearly enough to stop the angry mob that
gathered Aug. 22 on South Main Street.

  Louis Peck, 36, a black man accused of raping a 6-year-old white girl,
was being held in the city jail. When rumors spread that vigilantes were
forming a lynch mob, Akron officials moved the suspect to Cuyahoga
County for protection.

  Unaware that the prisoner was gone, a crowd of 5,000 gathered that
night outside Akron's City Building, a brick structure that housed the
mayor, council, police and jail. The vigilantes
 demanded that police turn over the prisoner, which, of course, was
impossible.

 Anger escalated. Rocks were thrown. Windows were smashed. Doors were
battered.
From a window, a policeman fired shots into the crowd, killing Rhoda
Davidson, 4, a passenger in a buggy, and Glen Wade, 10, a spectator
across the street.

 The outraged crowd went berserk, returning gunfire and forcing its way
into the jail in search of the prisoner. Police Chief Hughlin H.
Harrison and a handful of officers escaped out a back door.

  About 11 p.m., the mob dynamited the building and set it on fire.
Columbia Hall, an adjacent public hall, was torched, too. Firefighters
dodged bullets while trying to put out the blazes, but  the mob cut the
hoses.

  The buildings burned all night and crumbled into ruins. The cheering
mob dispersed just before dawn. The next day, Company C of the 8th
Regiment of the state militia was called to restore order.

 Chief Harrison, the subject of scorn for bungling the crisis, came out
of hiding after two days. He was given a leave of absence and then
fired. Several officers quit. Thirty-two citizens were convicted of
participating in the riot.

  Meanwhile, Louis Peck, the rape suspect, was found guilty in a
20-minute trial and sentenced to life at the Ohio penitentiary in
Columbus. Gov. James M. Cox pardoned him in 1913, saying Peck had no
chance to prove his innocence without a lawyer.

  What lessons did Akron police learn from the riot? They needed new
leadership, more officers, a solid building and better crowd-control
skills. And they needed to improve their image.