Cleveland: Protesters Disrupt “Community Conversation” Aimed at Cooling Down Anger at Murder by Police

March 16, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

The February 25 Cleveland “Community Conversation” at a Baptist Church in an African-American neighborhood was billed as an “important meeting to discuss the Department of Justice’s findings and how to build a better relationship between the police and the community.” (For an article on the report from the Department of Justice on the Cleveland police, which was released last December, see “Federal Report Reveals Illegal Brutality of Cleveland Cops.”)

The councilman leading the meeting assured people that all their questions will be answered by four police association officials, but most weren’t. He took the audience’s cards with questions and did an elimination shuffle to determine which ones will be answered. All but one posed the problem as how to build trust between the community and police. The cops responded with excuses of budget cuts, community policing, and cultural sensitivity training.

As tension heated up, the church pastor tried to cool people down preaching “to give all due respect to the speakers,” and gave a childlike plea to god with words of “lord, you are in control of our lives, and we need to control and relinquish the anger we feel towards the police. We should find a common ground so we can find peace with each other, because Jesus will not let us down, and god is the ultimate problem solver.”

In response to the police murder of 12-year-old Tamir Rice (who was playing with a toy gun), the head of the Black Shield Police Association said that more police should be present in the schools to strengthen the relation between the Black communities and police, to gain trust and flexibility within the police force and with the youth.

The “conversation” erupted with more fury as Michelle Thomas, aunt of Tamir Rice, held up his picture and confronted the police union president with heartfelt emotion.

A group of four people from Revolution Books stood up and shouted out:

“Police murder must stop now! How much training does it take to murder a 12-year-old boy! It’s not about training. The police do not protect and serve the people, they protect the system that rules over the people to maintain exploitation and oppression. The power is not legitimate! Say NO MORE to the system giving the green light to killer cops!”

“Tamir Rice did not have to die!

“Timothy Russell did not have to die!

“Malissa Williams did not have to die!

“Tanisha Anderson did not have to die!

“John Crawford did not have to die!

“Eric Garner did not have to die!

“Michael Brown did not have to die!

“The whole damn system is guilty!”

Many people cheered and began talking with each other. It brought the “official conversation” to a halt, stopping the beleaguered police official from speaking. The councilman and the reverend unsuccessfully tried to quiet the crowd. They abruptly called the “conversation” to a close but people weren’t satisfied. The reverend reluctantly announced that those who had questions for the panel could file in a single line and would have an opportunity to speak. Many had already left, including the councilman.

Tamir Rice’s aunt again confronted the police union president, who responded quite coldly and unremorsefully. A man confronted the people who were complaining that they were disrespecting god’s house saying that back in the day, when he attended a church meeting with MLK, “conversations in the house of the lord went on in the very same way, so you can talk that stuff to someone else.” He then spoke on the prison system, and how much of the Black youth in the community were entangled with being fearful, and how hateful some have grown towards the police, as many are viewed by the media and the police as thugs, criminals, and not for their character. A Jamaican man brought up the New Jim Crow and how the prison system is like slavery to many that are locked up for minor crimes, and how law enforcement contributes to the prison complex. A young activist expressed his disgust of the union president, exposing how the police union official lied about Tamir and called him “just a piece of trash.” The moderator tried to take the mike from him but he continued to speak. Many clapped in approval but he was chastised by the remaining city councilman.

A representative from Revolution Books spoke and said that Black lives do matter but it will take a revolution to make it real. And after a real revolution, police would risk their own lives instead of killing one of the people, as the cops did with Tamir Rice. He asked the police union president—who earlier said that the two cops who shot Tamir should not be judged by public opinion but have their day in court—if he supported their arrest and indictment so they could have their day in court. The police union president answered no, justifying Tamir’s murder saying that they thought he had a real gun and would shoot people. This outraged the audience. He then said let’s understand what this cop is saying: If one of us claims we didn’t intend harm, we will be arrested but this doesn’t go for cops. There’s a double standard. Cops can get away with murder. People applauded shouting out, “double standard!”

The councilman confronted the union president, touching on the legitimacy of his response to some police abuses. The cop threatened the councilman to “watch yourself!” The councilman replied that he still had some words to say and spoke to money issues and funding to hire more cops. He clearly felt compelled to take the police union on to boost his standing in the Black community and to regain some level of lost trust.

The “community conversation” was meant to be a one-sided conversation—but the people acted otherwise disrupting business as usual, with revolution in the house.


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