Group protesting Michael Brelo verdict settles civil rights suit with city of Cleveland

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CLEVELAND-- The city of Cleveland agreed to pay five protesters and one observer $50,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit.

The group was arrested during the May 23, 2015 protests following the Michael Brelo verdict. The Cleveland police officer was acquitted on manslaughter charges in a deadly police chase.

On Nov. 29, 2012, more than 60 police officers were involved in the pursuit that ended in East Cleveland with 135 shots being fired. The gunfire killed Timothy Russell and his passenger, Malissa Williams.

More than 70 people were arrested during the demonstrations in downtown Cleveland and taken to the old Aviation High School. Attorneys said the group was held there in filthy conditions with rat feces, cockroaches, no running water and no bathroom access.

When the group was moved to the jail, they were kept for 36 hours. Attorneys claimed this was in retaliation because they were speaking out against police violence.

Charges were eventually dismissed against protesters Jessica Barnes, Jasmine Bruce, Dominique Knox, Eric Maxwell, and Tanis Quach, and National Lawyers Guild Legal Observer Jordan Workman.

"The bathrooms, the facilities, they weren't working properly, some people didn't have tissues to clean themselves with, and the overall conditions of this place was just disgusting," said Knox. "I think the next day was a Cavs game, so they didn't want people to get back out into the streets, so they unjustly, wrongly took away people's rights."

“These protesters filed a lawsuit to stand up for the entire community’s right to freedom of speech. And this settlement represents a recognition that the Cleveland Police cannot be permitted to throw the people of this city in jail in retaliation for exercising their fundamental rights,” said attorney Jacqueline Greene, who represents one of the protesters.

The city said they have no comment. The $50,000 will be split between the six people.

Steve Loomis, President of the CPPA released this statement:

The City of Cleveland continuously sends the wrong message by paying wrongdoers for their criminal activity. The men and women of the Cleveland Police Department and our chief did a great job in allowing peaceful protests while policing violent behavior. It is very unfortunate the city continues to reward dangerous and criminal behavior with large cash "settlements" while ignoring the great work of the CDP, our dismal staffing levels, and the ever increasing violent crime rates in every neighborhood of the city.

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