Protests Follow Eric Holder's Visit To Cleveland
Critics are likening the incidents to ones in Ferguson and New York.
This included dozens of protesters who marched in Cleveland’s Public Square after Holder’s visit.
“Hands up! Can’t breathe! Hands up! Can’t breathe!” they chanted, referring to the death of Eric Garner, who died hours after a NYPD officer held him in a choke hold. A Staten Island grand jury cleared the officer in that case.
Among the demonstrators in Cleveland was Robin Blake, who hopes that Holder’s visit prompts change. But he says in the meantime, he fears city police are indifferent to the African-American community. He recalls last months’ incident where an officer shot a young boy playing with what turned out to be an Airsoft gun.
“I live down the street from the park where Tamir Rice was shot, so this is my front doorstep,” says Blake. “So this is….I think it’s more important than people are realizing right now.”
Another protester was Valerie Nunn, who held a sign that said, “Black lives matter”. She says nothing feels right about having her city lumped in with Ferguson, Missouri, and New York, where African-Americans have died after recent confrontations with police.
Nunn says she’s wary of trusting Cleveland’s police, after several incidents also resulted in black resident’s deaths.
“Y’know, I can get shot just for walking out of my house, and I feel like that’s not cool, y’know what I’m saying?” says Nunn. “I could just be walkin’ down the street, doing somethin’ with my fingers and they might think I’m trying to do something to harm them, and they shoot me! Know what I’m saying?”
Today’s release of findings by justice officials say a pattern of excessive force has eroded public confidence in Cleveland police, straining relations between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
Lakewood resident and protester Jane Kentner says while the confrontations with police look to be drawn along racial lines, the issue of accountability in law enforcement should concern everyone.
“It needs a whole lot of checks and balances, and people have to not have so much white privilege that they can just sit at home and say, ‘Well, that doesn’t concern me,’” argues Kentner.
“We have to be united, we can’t be in our little racial groups.”
Federal and city officials say their investigation shows a failure by the department to adequately train, review, and investigate police officers’ use of force.
The Attorney General and other officials agreed on the need to reform Cleveland’s Police Department, after what they deemed a pattern of “unreasonable and unnecessary” use of force stemming from an investigation that launched in spring 2013.
Among the incidents that sparked the investigation, was a 2012 high-speed chase where officers fired 137 rounds into a car driven by an unarmed man and his passenger. Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams died on the scene.