CLEVELAND - Dozens of clergy and community members gathered inside Mount Olive Baptist Church Thursday night, not for a sermon, but to hear about a way forward to create social change following the acquittal of Cleveland officer Michael Brelo.
“They're frustrated, they're upset and they feel that it's business as usual,” said Rev. Jimmy Gates, Pastor of Zion Missionary Baptist Church.
They discussed their reaction the Brelo verdict – disappointed, but not surprised – as well as solutions going forward. A judge acquitted Brelo of manslaughter charges in the November, 2012 deaths of Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell. The pair was shot 137 times by Cleveland Police officers. Many community leaders at the forum took issue with the case, the charges, and the prosecution.
“I'm disappointed that our prosecutor charged Brelo with charges he knew he could not find him guilty of,” said State Sen. Sandra Williams. “Not one person has been held responsible.”
A panel made up of a pastor, a state senator, a professor and a community organizer discussed solutions, including changes in prosecution and the grand jury process, as well as the need for improved community education and more accountability.
Panelistand CSU Professor of Urban Studies Dr. Ronnie Dunn said the settlement between the Deptartment of Justice and City of Cleveland, announced this week, is a good start.
“We need to continue to voice our displeasure with these type of rulings but do it in a manner that is constructive in moving forward,” he said.
The message resonated with Tevis Gordon, of Cleveland, who heard about the town hall meeting on Facebook and came to learn.
“The solutions the panelists are giving are definitely something I’m taking in. I think one of the most important things I've heard is about community education,” he said. “I think we have a lot of work to do, and I think we have a long way to go to get to justice.”
Read more on officer Brelo HERE**