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Protesters in Northeast Ohio push for change after police shoot Wisconsin man

Shaker Square protest
Posted at 9:34 PM, Aug 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-26 23:39:09-04

SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio — From protesters in Shaker Heights to the Cleveland NAACP, people continue to call for an end to police violence against Black people.

A small group of protesters gathered Wednesday in Shaker Square, including Jennifer Carter.

"If it happens to one person, then it happens to us all," Carter said.

Carter said she was out protesting for the second time in the last month, and that as long as police continue to shoot Black people, she will continue to protest.

"Today, our message is still the same," Carter said. "We want change and we want action, and that comes from change from the police."

This time, Carter was protesting and thinking about Jacob Blake, who was shot and injured by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

"We are tired of black people being murdered in cold blood by police officers, especially with the shootings that have taken place over the weekend," Carter said. "There is never a narrative that is going to justify shooting anyone in the back, let alone a police officer shooting anyone of color in the back, and I would hope and pray that anyone would feel that way, regardless of the color of that skin."

She's pushing for change.

"We want answers. We don’t want anymore, 'Oh, I’m sorry,'" Carter said. "We don’t want things that aren’t going to bring us a tangible action. Intent means nothing at this point."

She said she thinks about this every day, not just when she's out protesting.

"I think about my friends and my family and people who I don’t even know," Carter said. "I don’t want someone to have to bury someone else because they were killed by the police, and they shouldn’t have been."

Carter urged white Americans to consider that it could affect anyone.

"People think that it’s not a problem, but it is a problem, and just because it may not be someone that affects your race, we all know someone," Carter said. "This could happen to anybody, and that’s what I want people to understand. This could be anyone."

Protesters at Shaker Square also called for the arrest of the off-duty Cleveland police officer who shot and killed Desmond Franklin in April.

Danielle Sydnor, president of the Cleveland NAACP, said the Black community has been mourning these incidents "for years, for centuries, even."

She hopes white people will take steps to learn and connect with Black people in a better way.

"Some of what we cannot legislate, some of what we can't put into policy, are the matters of the heart," Sydnor said.

She said she continues to ask for other people to see Black people as human beings.

"If we could convince police, if we could convince even the broader community that just because our skin is darker, our skin is black, that we are still humans and we're asking you for human-like treatment, and that is it," Sydnor said. "And it seems so alarming and it seems like it's just impossible to do, but we do it even for animals. We get outraged when we see these types of situations that we think happen to innocent animals. And so how do we get the community to view us the same and believe that a man should not walk away paralyzed while his sons look on because an officer has the right to fire his weapon?"

Sydnor said she has had conversations with local law enforcement, saying that "if our policies say the actions of that officer are right and justified, we have to begin to acknowledge that our policies can't be right."

She believes the 8 Can't Wait campaign policies to restrict use of force in policing are a step forward and a comprehensive plan, with "specific demands that police departments should be willing to adopt." However, she said it goes beyond policy change to people learning to be allies.

"That way, when I come up and I approach them, I see them like somebody who could be my son, my daughter, my brother, and realize that they could be having a bad day," Sydnor said. "Maybe they're not complying because they've had a bad day. Maybe they’re not complying because they've seen the videos of Philando Castile who did comply and still lost his life. Or maybe they've had other incidences where they've never reported it, but they've had brutality happen to them."

She added, "We've got to be able to look at this in a broader context and say that there is the ability to change hearts if we can get allies to join us in this movement and not just protest, and not just show up at a rally, but have those difficult conversations with their family members."

Sydnor said she believes George Floyd's death was one that didn't fit the narrative that an officer could have feared for his life.

"People sympathized with the fact that he, literally, they watched him die, in a video where he was helpless," Sydnor said.

She urged white people to consider whether a white man would have been treated the same in Jacob Blake's situation.

"If that same man was doing that same thing and he was white, would the officer’s first reaction be to shoot him at close blank range in his back?" Sydnor said.

Sydnor said permanent change will come from policy changes and from voting in November.

"We have to vote for individuals that are going to enact legislative change at the federal, at the state and at the local level that's going to ensure these types of behaviors are not allowable in police departments across this country," Sydnor said.

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