CLEVELAND (WJW) — Free speech rang throughout downtown Cleveland Saturday as two opposing groups of protesters voiced their opinions about the state of law enforcement.
On one side, Sarah Sacha organized a pro-police rally at Ft. Huntington park.
“We know that there are bad officers out there and we know that the system can be improved, but when it comes down to it the majority of police officers are good,” said Sacha.
A few blocks away, a demonstration assembled by ‘With Peace We Protest‘ gathered at the free stamp.
“Our objective is to inform people that blue lives don’t actually exist. When they go home or when they leave work they take off their uniform and they’re no longer ‘blue,’ they’re now white, black, Asian, Latino, Native American or whatever they are,” said Chris Piazza, the organization’s legal director.
The roughly month old organization says they hope to sit down with city officials to address their concerns.
“We want to either defund or abolish the Cleveland Police Department, specifically to take that funding and turn it into things like health care or education, social welfare programs,” Piazza said. “We also want to get Cleveland police out of the Cleveland Municipal School District, we want to get Jose Garcia arrested for the April 9th murder of Desmond Franklin, and get rid of transit police as well.”
With relatives in law enforcement, Sacha is also trying to reach Cleveland’s government with a petition.
“Instead of defunding our police and putting people out there who you know may not be qualified, may not be safe to handle those situations, we can transfer funds to extend police training,” said Sacha.
She referred to things like bias and training for situations where mental health is a factor.
In the space of an hour or so, on just one day, Cleveland was the site of passionate debate that we’ve seen nationwide centered around police conduct.
“I would say to them, we need to put aside our hate, we need to put aside our differences and if we came together we could make positive changes for our country but we can’t do that if we’re fighting each other,” Sacha said addressing the other protestors. “If you really want to work together, we need to hold police accountable for when they’re bad actors,” Piazza replied.
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