Cleveland protests: 71 arrested after police officer acquitted

Police arrest 71 people in Cleveland during protests that flared after police officer found not guilty over the deaths of two unarmed black people

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Some 71 people were arrested the night after a day of protests following the acquittal of a white police officer who had been on trial over the deaths of two unarmed black suspects killed in a police gunfire following a high-speed car chase in 2012.

Police Chief Calvin Williams said the protests were mostly peaceful after the announcement of the court’s verdict on Saturday.

But later in the day, some people “crossed the line” by assaulting bystanders in a downtown area briefly blocking a major highway and disrupting businesses at a shopping center, he added.  

The trial comes amid a national outcry over police conduct and the law enforcement’s use of lethal force against minority groups.

Last year has seen the deaths of unarmed black men during confrontations with police in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City, Baltimore and elsewhere which have spawned protests and occasional violent outbursts across the United States.

Williams said the police in Cleveland “gave people the space and a safe environment” to demonstrate peacefully, but he added they would not allow violence towards people or property.

The protesters took to the streets after Judge John O’Donnell found officer Brelo, who was among a group of officers who fired on the car, acted reasonably in shooting the two people while standing on the hood of their surrounded car, firing multiple rounds through the windshield.

Michael Brelo (31) was charged with the deaths of Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell after he fired 15 rounds into their windshield standing on the hood of their car after it stopped following a police chase.

The Justice Department in a December report found that Cleveland Police Department systematically engages in excessive use of force against civilians.

The report found that supervisors tolerated and in some cases endorsed the use of unnecessary or unreasonable force.

In another incident, days before the report was released, a Cleveland police officer shot and killed Tamir Rice - a 12-year old boy who was holding a pellet gun - and 37-year-old Tanisha Anderson, a mentally ill woman in distress who died after officers took her to the ground and handcuffed her.

TRTWorld and agencies