Cleveland Braces For Verdict In 2012 Police Shooting
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
People in Cleveland, Ohio, are waiting for a verdict in a police shooting trial and waiting to see what follows. Incidents in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore led to violence. Protests after a shooting in Madison, Wis., were peaceful. Cleveland could go either way or its own distinctive way. Here's the flashpoint. Officer Michael Brelo is on trial for voluntary manslaughter. He is accused in the shooting deaths of two black suspects, both unarmed, who were sitting in a car boxed in by the police. Here's Brian Bull of member station WCPN.
BRIAN BULL, BYLINE: I'm standing here outside of the Glenville Recreation Center on the east side of Cleveland. Inside, roughly two dozen people are gathered - law enforcement, local politicians, clergy and activists to discuss how they can best quell any violence that could happen in the wake of the Brelo verdict.
HANK DAVIS: We're getting ahead of the violence.
BULL: Hank Davis is one of 75 citizen volunteer marshals whose job will be to walk the streets after the verdict, mediate any conflicts and point out trouble to police. The goal is to mirror Madison protesters rather than Baltimore's after the verdict. Part of this effort will be to identify agitators who officials fear might try to spark riots.
DAVIS: Anyone that's looking to come and confuse our kids, our youth, and mislead the people and bring chaos and mayhem, I would suggest that you find another city or somewhere else to do it because it won't be tolerated in Cleveland.
BULL: Cleveland officials have designated nearly five dozen churches across the city as safe places after the verdict is announced. Pastor Andrew Clark of the Federation of Network Ministries says anyone upset over the outcome can come in for counseling and a shoulder to lean on. Clark says he's had good talks with the Cleveland police over preparations.
PASTOR ANDREW CLARK: We have been assured that the police officers will not be in riot gear, that they are not going to stop any demonstration or protest.
BULL: That contrasts for Ferguson's police response which was highly criticized for being militarized following the Michael Brown shooting. Cleveland protesters did shut down traffic around Public Square last fall after a rookie officer fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who had only a gun that shot plastic pellets in his hand.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: If we don't get it...
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Shut it down.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: If you don't get it...
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Shut it down.
BULL: But the protest was more disruption than destruction. The city has also set up a Twitter hashtag #onecle to promote a united city. Cleveland leaders also held a community safety meeting outlining their teamwork with civic groups to promote calm among residents. Cleveland's police spokesman, Ali Pillow, says they're trying to stay ahead of the protests.
ALI PILLOW: I wouldn't dare compare or critique anything that the Ferguson Police Department did. But in terms of the Cleveland department, this is the proactive approach that the city and the police department has taken.
BULL: And city councilman Kevin Conwell says he plans to ride around the city after the verdict.
KEVIN CONWELL: I plan to ride the neighborhood for three days after the verdict if he's acquitted. I have to ride. I have to show leadership. And I'll be out there riding all the time, seeing what's going on, riding the streets.
BULL: With so many people from the Cleveland community working to offset any violence, city leaders are hoping that residents respond to appeals from neighbors and activists urging peaceful protests. For NPR News, I'm Brian Bull in Cleveland.
INSKEEP: Some listeners may have heard an earlier version of this story which we now need to correct. We misinterpreted Cleveland Councilman Kevin Conwell saying that he would be rioting in the neighborhood if there's an acquittal. The Cleveland City Council pointed out to us that Conwell actually said he would be riding in the neighborhood, not rioting.
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Correction May 18, 2015
In early versions of this story, we reported that Cleveland City Councilman Kevin Conwell said he would go out "rioting" if police officer Michael Brelo is acquitted in the shooting death of two black suspects. That was incorrect. Conwell said he would be "riding" in his district if the officer is acquitted.