In comparison to other large cities, Cleveland’s white and
African American populations are exceedingly segregated. Although the city’s
non-white population accounts for 61.2 percent of the city’s people,
Cleveland’s African-American population remains concentrated in the city’s east
side and the eastern suburbs, while the Hispanic community live mainly in the west side of
the city. With the Saturday decision to acquit white police officer Michael
Brelo of manslaughter, that segregation and the resulting tensions may only continue to escalate.
Just after Brelo — who climbed on the hood of a car in a 2012 chase and fired repeatedly at the two unarmed, black passengers in the car — protests erupted outside of the courthouse. According to The New York Times, the ruling was met with anger, particularly from the city’s black population.
Considering the fact that 53.3 percent of Cleveland’s population is black, compared to only 33.4 percent white, African Americans’ anger will undoubtedly be heard loud and clear. Even though the ruling by Judge John P. O'Donnell seems to be legally sound, according to an op-ed in Cleveland newspaper The Plain Dealer, for many, the verdict is still salt in the wound. Rep. Marcia L. Fudge, a Cleveland Democrat, called O'Donnell's verdict a “stunning setback.”
The verdict is another chilling reminder of a broken relationship between the Cleveland police department and the community it serves. Today we have been told — yet again — our lives have no value.
Whether the momentum of the protests and anger surrounding Saturday’s verdict will spur any shifts will soon be seen. While one case wrapped up on Memorial Day weekend, Cleveland is still investigating two other police shootings. One is the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was shot by a white officer because he was holding a toy gun, and the other is the death of 37-year-old Tanisha Anderson, a black woman who lost consciousness after being placed facedown on the pavement while in police custody.
While the tensions in Cleveland are nothing unique, as protests over unnecessary police force have swept the country, Cleveland’s cluster of police shooting investigations and its large African American population may enable the calls for change to really be heard.
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