Protests In Cleveland After Officer Found Not Guilty

Protests have commenced following Officer Michael Brelo’s acquittal.

Officer Brelo, 31, was found not guilty of voluntary manslaughter following the shooting of two unarmed citizens. Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams were shot to death when Brelo supposedly mounted the hood of their car and fired a barrage of bullets through the windshield. This followed a high speed pursuit after officers heard Russell’s car backfire, and mistook the sounds for a gunshot. Thirteen officers in total fired at the car, firing around 137 bullets. Brelo shot around 49 of those bullets.

During the trial, Brelo was seen weeping as the judge read the “not guilty” verdict. Following the trial, Breo’s lawyer released a statement to the press.

“We didn’t do anything illegal. We didn’t do anything wrong. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to let any bully push us around. We stood toe-to-toe with an oppressive government trying to put away a law-abiding citizen.”

Following the acquittal on Saturday, protesters took to the streets to voice their disapproval. Police were quick on the scene and had made “multiple arrests” by around 11:30 p.m., according to a tweet sent out by the official Cleveland Police Twitter page.

Later that night, several others were arrested for different reasons, among those being assault, arson, and failure to disperse.

In total, 71 people ended up arrested last night for breaking various laws. Those 71 were made up of 39 men, 16 women, and a “number of juveniles.”

The protests were almost entirely peaceful and legal, with over 150 protesters holding hands across a highway chanting the words “Hands up! Don’t shoot!”, similar to what was chanted when Michael Brown’s shooter was found “not guilty” in Ferguson. Cleveland police chief Calvin D. Williams released this statement in an attempt to ward off potential rioters.

“While the first amendment rights of those wishing to lawfully express their thoughts and views will be supported by the Division of Police. Any unlawful behavior, acts of violence or destruction of property, will not be tolerated.”

Of course, the killings of Williams and Russell three years ago are not “isolated incidents.” In November, 2014, Tamir Rice was shot to death in a Cleveland park by a police officer, as it was suspected that Rice was armed. He was not. Brelo’s “not guilty” verdict has done nothing to loosen the tension between the minority population in Cleveland and the police officers.

The “not guilty” verdict follows a similar verdict for the shooter of Michael Brown. The grand jury in that case refused to indict Officer Darren Wilson for manslaughter following his shooting of Brown. This similarly caused unrest in Ferguson.

[Credit: Ricky Rhodes / Getty Images]