Cleveland protests after Brelo verdict are peaceful, but tension remains

Cleveland protesters peaceful, but city remains on edge as conclusion of Tamir Rice investigation nears

Tension in Cleveland remained elevated Sunday, a day after Police Officer Michael Brelo was acquitted of manslaughter charges in the shooting deaths of two unarmed people during a 2012 car chase. 

Ohio Gov. John Kasich praised local elected officials and protesters after mostly peaceful demonstrations blanketed the city following the verdict. 

"Credit goes to the leadership in Cleveland who have spoken in with one voice saying protest but no violence is acceptable in Cleveland," Kasich said Sunday during an appearance on ABC's "This Week." 

He added that the people of Cleveland "ought to protest, that's their right, but violence has been kept to an absolute minimum."

On Saturday, 71 protesters were arrested in demonstrations on highways and main streets throughout the city on suspicion of various offenses, including obstruction of justice and aggravated rioting, Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said.

The Cleveland Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Sunday as to how many protesters had been released. 

"The majority of the protests, the majority of the protesters yesterday were peaceful," Mayor Frank Jackson said during a briefing with reporters. 

The demonstrations came after a judge acquitted Brelo, who is white, of manslaughter charges for jumping onto the hood of a car and unleashing a barrage of gunfire on Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, the vehicle's unarmed black occupants.

In total, nearly a dozen officers fired 137 rounds into the car during the pursuit. The Department of Justice has said it would investigate the shooting.

Despite the relative calm of the protests, tension remained as the city awaits the release of findings in another potentially explosive case -- that of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was fatally shot last year by Cleveland police. The boy had been playing in a public park and was holding a toy gun.  

Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department officials, who are overseeing the investigation of Tamir's death, said this month a "majority" of the investigation was complete and will be handed over to the district attorney's office in the coming weeks. 

"People are profoundly, profoundly disappointed," said Nina Turner, a former state senator from Cleveland, in regard to the Brelo verdict. 

Turner co-chairs the Ohio Task Force on Community Police Relations, which was created by the governor after Tamir's death. 

"When you have a group of people who have lost hope, we have a problem. And that's what we have here," Turner said. 

Over much of the last year, the shooting deaths of unarmed black men across the nation have spurred protests in communities from Los Angeles to New York City. 

In Baltimore last month, riots ensued after it was revealed Freddie Gray, 25, suffered a severed spine while in police custody. Gray eventually died from his injury. The six officers involved in his arrest have been indicted by a grand jury. And in early April, video showed a police officer in North Charleston, S.C., shooting Walter Scott in the back as he ran away. 

"Trust is broken," Turner said. "We have a city that remains on edge and a country as well."

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