Police on Saturday made 71 arrests after protesters in Cleveland took to the streets to demonstrate against a judge’s decision to acquit a white city police officer in the deaths of two unarmed black suspects.
Police Chief Calvin Williams said at a news conference on Sunday morning that while the majority of protests were peaceful during the day, some became more aggressive in the afternoon and into the night. The charges were mainly obstruction of justice and aggravated rioting.
Of the 71 who were arrested, approximately 39 were male and 16 were female, said Williams. In addition, a handful of juveniles were also taken into custody. Demonstrations and violence included protesters blocking the majority of thoroughfare Route 2, assaulting customers at a restaurant area downtown and interrupting business at the Tower City Center.
“We wanted to make people understand we’re going to help you in this process, but if things turn violent … we will take action,” said Williams.
Earlier on Saturday, police officer Michael Brelo, was found not guilty on two counts of voluntary manslaughter in the November 2012 deaths of Timothy Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30.
Brelo, 31, remains suspended without pay and still faces administrative charges. According to authorities, after a 22-mile car chase, Brelo and a dozen other officers fired 137 shots at a car with Williams and Russell inside it after the car backfired while driving past police headquarters. Police mistakenly believed they heard a gun going off in the car. Brelo had fired 49 of the 137 shots as he mounted the hood of Russell’s car.
Officials urged for clam following the acquittal, especially as protests in response to alleged police brutality and racism toward African-Americans and other minorities have rocked cities across the country, including in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is also considering running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, has said the country must respect the judge’s decision. He said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that “the verdict is the verdict.” Kasich also praised Cleveland for largely avoiding violence. “The people in Cleveland protest, and they ought to protest, that’s their right,” he said, adding, “But violence has been kept to an absolute minimum in that city.”
The Cleveland community is still awaiting the results of the investigation into the police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.