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Protests set to begin in Cleveland in response to George Floyd's death and racial injustice

Posted at 9:57 PM, May 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-29 22:54:27-04

CLEVELAND — Frustration surrounding the death of George Floyd is an all-too familiar feeling for Northeast Ohioans, who remember the days after an officer shot and killed Tamir Rice.

“I’m trying to hold back tears, I’m overwhelmed because I have this side that feels hopeless. I have a community that feels hopeless right now and don’t know what to do,” said Cleveland City Councilman Basheer Jones. “If you’re tired of us talking about racism, can you imagine how it feels to live it every day?”

The pain is deep rooted. African Americans across the nation and here in Northeast Ohio are coping with the death of not just Floyd, but countless others as well.

“If you’re a black man in America you’re always under the threat of being murdered and that is a reality since when they brought us here,” said Pastor Aaron Phillips with the Cleveland Clergy Coalition. “There’s a swelling of frustration and trauma in black America and when something like this happens it actually is just something that has already been underbelly all this. This has been baking in the oven for a long time and it just takes one little strike of a match to set this all off.”

During a town hall over the phone, Mayor Frank Jackson addressed the ongoing issue of excessive use of force.

“To me there’s an underlining theme that goes to the fact of institutionalized in equities, institutionalized disparities, institutionalized racism,” Mayor Jackson said. “When you combine all those things together there is a burden that the subject and the object of those institutionalized inequities in disparities and racism. The impact on that population is tremendous. There’s a pent-up anger that is demonstrated itself with the recent events around the country.”

Police Chief Calvin Williams echoed the pain many are feeling. He said it's challenging facing reality as a black man in law enforcement.

“I stand on both sides of the issue,” he said. “These things aren’t just based on that incident. As tragic as it is, these are societal ills that plagued this country for decades that we have to deal with.”

Williams said he addressed his team about the issue during a weekly command meeting on Thursday.

“We made sure that people understand that this is not the way that we operate here in the city of Cleveland nor should it be the way any law enforcement agency operates around this country,” Williams said. “It’s a stain on the good things that a lot of good police officer do day in and day out to protect their communities across this country. It makes us all look bad. It should not have happened. That’s not the way we were trained.”

On Saturday, hundreds plan to march through Cleveland’s streets, calling for an end to racial injustices. Black Lives Matter Cleveland and the Cleveland Clergy Coalition will be there. Pastor Phillips said they will join the chief in encouraging everyone to express themselves without violence. Williams made it clear his team will not condone violence or any physical destruction during the demonstrations.

“If there was ever a time for African-American people to come together is right now,” Pastor Phillips said.