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Peaceful Protest In Cleveland Heights

A crowd of protesters at Cleveland Heights City Hall. [Jean-Marie Papoi / ideastream]
A crowd of protesters at Cleveland Heights City Hall.

Chants of "Black Lives Matter" and "No Justice, No Peace" rang out around Severance Town Center in Cleveland Heights Wednesday afternoon, as hundreds of protesters gathered to make their voices heard on issues surrounding use of excessive force by police.

The protest, which remained peaceful and lasted several hours, was one of many in the Cleveland area this week, organized as a response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.

The crowd of protesters arrive at Cleveland Heights City Hall on Wednesday. [Jean-Marie Papoi / ideastream]

After marching around Severance Circle, the group gathered in front of Cleveland Heights City Hall, while members of the Cleveland Heights Police Department looked on.

Protesters chanted "No justice, no peace" as they marched around Severance Circle. [Jean-Marie Papoi / ideastream]

Avery LaMar Pope, a resident of Cleveland Heights and student at Ohio University, helped organize the demonstration on Twitter.

"When change is necessary, it is not requested. It is required," Pope said, addressing the crowd. "Our cops shouldn't be trained to use excessive and unnecessary force to detain." 

Avery LaMar Pope, an organizer of the demonstration, addresses the crowd. [Jean-Marie Papoi / ideastream]

Pope then invited all participants, including the police officers present, to kneel in silence for eight minutes and forty-six seconds, the amount of time that Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on George Floyd's neck.

Some officers knelt with the demonstrators.

Participants knelt in silence for eight minutes and forty-six seconds. [Jean-Marie Papoi / ideastream]

The crowd then called for comments from Cleveland Heights Police Chief Annette Mecklenburg, who was present at the demonstration. 

"As leader of this police department, I do my best everyday," Mecklenburg responded. "I have the best interest of everybody in heart. But I realize, just like anybody else, I can do better." 

Cleveland Heights Police Chief Annette Mecklenburg, right, addresses concerns of those gathered at City Hall. [Jean-Marie Papoi / ideastream]

Mecklenburg went on to state that the police department, in conjuntion with citizens, need to work together on finding solutions. 

She was met with some opposition from the crowd as they recalled an incident from February at a Marc's store on Coventry Road where a black man was restrained after officers thought he resembled a suspect from an earlier incident. 

"With the assistance of our City Manager, our City Council, we're going to look at our policies and procedures," Mecklenburg said. "We're going to see how we can improve, and make sure we're fair to every single person."

Participants in the demonstration raise their arms in solidarity. [Jean-Marie Papoi / ideastream]

"We're all here because we love this community," said Cleveland Heights City Manager Tanisha Briley. "We want to listen. We are here to support this protest. We want you to know that we hear you. That your pain is real." 

Briley will be working in the coming days and weeks to organize a town hall meeting, so that residents will have a better opportunity to ask questions and discuss how to reform police procedures with city officials.

Jean-Marie Papoi is a digital producer for the arts & culture team at Ideastream Public Media.