Pictured are slain Missouri teen Michael Brown, Cleveland NAACP President The Rev. Hilton Smith and Cleveland NAACP Executive Director Sheila Wright
By Kathy Wray Coleman, editor-in-chief. Coleman is a community activist and 20-year investigative and legal journalist who trained for 17 years at the Call and Post Newspaper in Cleveland, Ohio. Reach Cleveland Urban News.Com by email at editor@cleveland urban news.com and by phone at (216) 659-0473
(www.clevelandurbannews.com) / (www.kathywraycolemanonlinenewsblog.com)
CLEVELAND, Ohio-In two separate protests held Thursday evening in Cleveland, Ohio, one of the staged outside of City Hall and the other in front of the Cleveland Public Library in downtown Cleveland, a couple hundred people, led by young activists leaders and the Cleveland NAACP, rallied against police brutality and for justice for slain Black Missouri teen Michael Brown.
The rallies were part of a national movement across the country to show universal solidarity in support of Brown, 18, the unarmed Black teen slain Saturday by officer Darren Wilson in the majority Black suburb of Ferguson, Missouri.
Wilson, who is White, is on paid administrative leave and has not been formally charged. Witnesses say he shot Brown when Brown had allegedly surrendered with his hands up.
Only four of Ferguson's 58 police officers are Black.
At both rallies, which mirrored gatherings in some 50 cities nationally, including New York and Washington D.C., protesters called off the names of a plethora of young Black men gunned down unnecessarily by police from cities nationally like New York City to Cleveland itself, a largely Black major American city of some 400,000 people where the crime rate continues to escalate and Black men are getting killed by police and each other in droves.
The Rev Al Sharpton, an MSNBC cable television political host and president of the New York-based National Action Network, organized the national protests.
Brown was headed to college before police gunned him down last weekend saying later that he allegedly assault officer Warren following a traffic stop after the convenient store alleged theft by Brown, though police now say that the traffic stop and store incidents are unrelated.
Nonetheless, the tragedy has angered Sharpton, also a Civil Rights activist, and protesters, particularly in Ferguson, a city of some 21,000 people now under a governor- directed curfew following days of violent protests.
Police say that Brown allegedly stole a couple of pack of cigars at a local convenient store, an alleged petty theft that Brown's supporters say, if true, does not merit a death sentence. A purported video of the alleged store, initially published by CNN, incident does not show one way or another whether Brown paid for the cigars.
Rioting broke out and has continued for four days and nights since the killing, and has resulted in fallout between residents and police.
Dozens have been arrested, including reporters, some claiming the arrests of some protesters was done with excessive force.
Protesters in Ferguson were more calm in the last couple of days, and after the city police that had appeared in swat gear and threatened protester were replaced to patrol the protests by the Missouri State Police per a directive of Gov Jay Nixon.
The racial unrest has prompted President Obama and the governor of Missouri to call for calm.
Both the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice are investigating the Michael Brown case and excessive force allegations against Ferguson police.
In Cleveland, college kids and groups such as the Cleveland Chapter NAACP, the Guardian Angels and the Imperial Women Coalition were adamant that excessive force by police in Ferguson and throughout the nation, including in Cleveland where two unarmed Blacks, Malissa Williams, 30, and Timothy Russell, 43, were gunned down in November 2012 by 13-non Black police officers slinging 137 bullets, must cease.
"We want justice," said Cleveland NAACP Executive Director Sheila Wright at Thursday's rally and vigil for Brown and other victims of what the protesters say is an epidemic of police brutality.
Asked if she wants the 13 cops that killed Williams and Russell charged and fired , Wright said that "all I can say is we want justice."
Wright said also that Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, the city's third Black mayor, must step to the plate to adress tension between police and the community, and the high incidences of excessive force claims.
"It must resonate with the people downtown," said Wright.
The Rev. Hilton Smith, president of the Cleveland NAACP, took it further saying that his local chapter Civil Rights organization will be out front if something is not done as to the 137 shots Cleveland police killing.
"We're waiting to see if they do something," Smith told Cleveland Urban News.Com at the rally for Brown and on the subject of the 137 shots Cleveland police shooting. "If they do not do something, we will."
A Cuyahoga County Grand Jury in June handed down an indictment on two counts of voluntary manslaughter against one of 13 non- Black Cleveland police officers that gunned down Williams and Russell , Michael Brelo, but freed the other 12 officers from an indictment after Cuyahoga County prosecutor, who is White, lobbied the grand jury on their behalf. Activists last month called for McGinty to resign around the unprecedented controversy, and they want both state and federal charges against all 13 of the cops as well as their immediate firing.
One of the organizers of the rally at the public library who is associated with the Cleveland NAACP tried to stick to the pat answer of we want justice, an answer in response to the question of whether she wants the Cleveland cops fired and prosecuted. But she broke her silence when Cleveland Urban News.Com probed further and asked if criminal charges and the firing of the Cleveland officers at issue would represent justice.
"Yes," said rally organizer Briana Oldham, 25, before leading protesters through the streets of downtown Cleveland to demand justice for Brown, and all like him subject to police brutality and possible murder.