By: Derek Jung with an addendum from Joseph Kathmann
DEREK: Cincinnati production company Self Diploma announced Monday evening that it will be cancelling its popular summer concert series on Fountain Square in response to the violence that led to at least seven arrests, one hospitalization, and a two injured police officers. The series, which has hosted some of the biggest up-and-coming hip-hop and electronic artists as well as popular DJs, often attracts several thousand attendees to the square on Saturday nights during the summer.
According to police reports, groups in the crowd became unruly around 11pm, and when officers moved in, they started throwing bottles, fireworks, and other items at police. Backup was called and officers in full riot gear eventually dispersed the crowd. Read a full report of the incident here.
My family and I were unlucky enough to stumble upon the aftermath of the unrest. We were about a half block away from the square when we heard two distinct booms approximately a half second apart. Immediately a flood of people turned the corner of 5th Street and Walnut and ran south towards us. While we later learned that people were setting off fireworks in trash cans, at the time we thought for sure that it was gun fire. We ran down to 4th Street and west to Vine before entering the hotel adjacent to the square to avoid the chaos. I counted around a dozen police cars on scene, but by that time the incident was over.
Many people have been clamoring about the racial implications of cancelling the series, and while I do think that the Self Diploma concerts have a higher minority demographic than the Midpoint Indie series on Friday or other events during the week, I think organizers made the right decision in cancelling the remaining dates after this coming weekend's show. This wasn't the first incident at one of their shows. Police have been called on several occasions in the past for rowdy and disorderly crowds, but nothing of this magnitude.
I think the Self Diploma shows could return given appropriate security changes. For example, I think that these events need to be at least 18+, preferably 21+. Three of the seven people arrested were between the ages of 16 and 23, and witnesses at the scene have said that it was these teenagers specifically that instigated and escalated the violence. I think next week's show, which Self Diploma stated will have extra security, is a big test as to whether a return would be an option with the City, 3CDC, and with sponsors. (EDITOR'S NOTE: Self Diploma has now cancelled next week's show as well) In a city environment that is already on edge from the jump in gun violence this year and being in the spotlight for Major League Baseball's All-Star Game next week, this was an unneeded black eye that necessitated a swift, albeit unfortunate response.
Read Self Diploma's full press release below.
JOSEPH: I wasn't there. Let's just get that out of the way. So I can't provide a firsthand account. That's Derek's job, and he did it swimmingly. However, I have been following the situation closely, and am disappointed with fallout. While ultimately necessary, it is unfortunate to see this great event be cancelled outright because of this incident. My biggest quirk, however, is how this event immediately became an issue of race. Conservatives are upset because a couple African American teens beat up a White dude and it was recorded, and are now looking at the actions of a few as a representation of the entire African American community. Liberals are now upset with response of the city and Self Diploma, claiming that the city is racist themselves for canceling the concert series. Well, I'm going to upset everyone: hush up. Seriously. You're both wrong. Conservatives: group mentality is a powerful thing. Systemic racism has been piling up all across the country like gasoline, and all it takes is one person to throw a match on the situation in any way and it lights the fire of group mentality. Once the crowd got rowdy, there was no stopping it. And don't say you'd act any differently. Had you been an African American forced to grow up in constant fear of being targeted because of the color of your skin, you would've done the exact same thing in that moment on Fountain Square. If you deny that, you're just ignorant. I don't care how you were raised, because there were lots of good people in that mob too. Liberals: the city has to do everything they can to ensure that we don't have an incident like this during All-Star Week. For one week, we are on the national stage, and if we mess it up it will tarnish the image of the city for a ridiculously long time. Honestly part of me was shocked that this event wasn't cancelled sooner just as a precaution. I wouldn't have even blamed them then. The city needs to do everything in its power to make the biggest week of the year go by perfectly, and if that means canceling the entire Fountain Square concert series for a few weeks, then I wouldn't complain. You have to look at the big picture, guys. Here's to hoping they bring it back next year, and we be more grateful for it when they do.
EDIT: Yesterday, Self Diploma cancelled this Saturday's performance as well. With the start of All-Star Week on Sunday, the city felt the move was necessary. Self Diploma hopes to return next year.