Protesters derail Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb's announcement of police oversight board nominees

 Black Lives Matter Cleveland co-founder Kareem Henton interrupts Mayor Justin Bibb after he announces choices for 13 member Community Police Commission.
Black Lives Matter Cleveland co-founder Kareem Henton interrupts Mayor Justin Bibb after he announces choices for 13 member Community Police Commission. [Matthew Richmond / Ideastream Public Media]

Mayor Justin Bibb had just introduced nominees for the new Community Police Commission Friday when his press conference on the steps of Cleveland City Hall was overtaken by protesters.

Black Lives Matter Cleveland co-founder Kareem Henton stepped in front of the mayor and held a sign supporting Issue 24, the ballot initiative passed in November that led to the creation of the new, powerful commission. He pulled out an air horn, held it over his head and began drowning out Bibb.

Henton and other organizers from Citizens for a Safer Cleveland, the group that led the signature drive to get Issue 24 on the ballot, disagree with the administration’s interpretation of Issue 24, now Charter Section 115.

Bibb tried to keep going, and defended his selections.

“We led an extensive public engagement process with community leaders, faith leaders and legal experts,” Bibb said, before Henton blew the horn again and Bibb abruptly ended the event.

At issue is the language found in Section 115-5 (c) of the charter, which lays out part of the criteria for selecting commissioners:

"At least one Commission member must be, represent, or be knowledgeable of, as applicable,

i. the issues of those who are limited-English speakers, homeless, or who have mental-illness and substance-abuse disorders;

ii. those who have been directly impacted by police violence, or be a family member of a person who has been killed by police;

iii. those who have been incarcerated and exonerated where police were involved in the wrongful conviction or incarceration;

iv. gun-violence survivors or be a family member of a person killed by gun violence;

v. an attorney with experience representing victims of police misconduct or criminally prosecuting police misconduct;

A single Commission member may fulfill more than one of the above categories. Where feasible, the Mayor will seek to appoint at least one member between the age of 18 to 30 at the time of appointment."

None of the mayor's 10 nominees, nor the three nominated by City Council, is an attorney. None of the nominees was wrongfully convicted and exonerated.

The city argues that only one of those five categories needs to be covered by one of the commissioners.

Activists argue that all five needed to be addressed, that’s why the first line after the list says one commissioner can cover more than one category.

“Why would that sentence even be necessary if the charter amendment did not require representation from each of the five categories?” Citizens for a Safer Cleveland members wrote in a letter outlining their objections to Bibb’s nominations.

The group asked the mayor to reconsider his nominations and threatened legal action against the city if he doesn’t.

In a statement following the press conference, Bibb defended his choices

“We knew this process wouldn’t be fast or easy. We are proud of the people we have selected, and we are confident in the robust selection process that we conducted,” Bibb said.

Bibb’s ten nominees will go to city council for approval. Hearings have not been scheduled yet.

His nominees are:

  • Alana Garrett-Ferguson – Center for Community Solutions
  • Cait Kennedy - co-founder of unBail
  • Charles Donaldson, Jr. – Sherwin-Williams
  • Gregory Reaves - Towards Employment
  • James M. Chura – retired police commander
  • Jan Ridgeway - Garden Valley Neighborhood House
  • Sharena Zayed - Stop the Pain
  • Pastor Kyle Earley - Pastor at City of God Cleveland
  • Piet Van Lier -  Policy Matters Ohio
  • Teri Wang - Asian American Coalition of Ohio

And City Council’s choices are:

  • John Adams – Cleveland School of Science and Medicine
  • Shandra Benito - The Nord Center
  • Audrianna Rodriguez - The Centers for Children and Families
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