Using social media, protests over the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black teenager in a St. Louis suburb spread to cities around the country last night, including downtown Cleveland. ideastream’s Joanna Richards reports.
At Willard Park, about 150 mostly black demonstrators held up signs calling for an end to police brutality against black men and boys. The crowd wasn't waiting for the results of any investigation. In speeches and poetry, speakers linked Brown’s death to a string of killings of unarmed black youth by white police officers, from New York City to here in Cleveland and the Dayton suburbs.
Cleveland State University student Arianna McCall performed at a makeshift podium.
"The body count of black men is so high it has turned their names into list-poems," she read from a poem she'd written. "Timothy Russell, John Crawford, Eric Garner, Michael Brown." The crowd murmured Amens.
Local organizer Akeem Rollins condemned what he called the criminalization of black men and put Michael Brown’s killing in the context of history and the legacy of slavery.
But he and others said troubles with police were a deeply personal issue.
"It looked like that could have been my son," said Kelly Herbin, who said she'd been unable to sleep well since first hearing of the shooting and seeing pictures of Brown dead in the street.
She brought her two daughters and a grandchild to the protest. She said from a young age, she cautioned her son to behave carefully around police, "because from what I witnessed growing up, he’s going to be a target: 6’ 4”, African-American, dark skin, male."
Just a few Cleveland police were on hand at the peaceful rally. A white officer was on horseback, surrounded by black children, who pet the horse as their parents looked on.