Protests erupt in Cleveland following controversial acquittal | News | DW | 24.05.2015
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Protests erupt in Cleveland following controversial acquittal

US police have arrested several people amid protests in Cleveland, Ohio. The protests were sparked by a white officer's acquittal on charges of manslaughter in the killing of two unarmed black suspects.

Cleveland police spokeswoman Jennifer Ciaccia said more than 20 people had been arrested in Saturday night's riots, which broke out just minutes after the white police officer, Michael Brelo, was cleared of all charges in the 2012 shooting of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, both of them black.

Police patrolled the streets of the city in riot gear as the protesters marched shouting "No justice - no peace" and "Black lives matter." At least three people were arrested at a restaurant after an object thrown through a window of the building injured a customer.

The protests came as US law enforcement comes under growing scrutiny on charges of systemic racism following a number of cases where lethal force has been used against minority groups.

In November last year, Cleveland saw one such incident when 12-year-old Tamir Rice, also black, was shot dead by police at a playground after he waved a toy gun.

Fatal shootings of unarmed black men by white police officers have also triggered violent protests in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri.

'Reasonable action'

Brelo, 31, was acquitted on Saturday after Judge John O'Donnell ruled that he had acted reasonably in shooting the two suspects through their car's windshield while standing on the hood after the vehicle was cornered following a 22-mile (35-kilometer) pursuit. The policeman was one of a group of officers who chased and shot at the car after it backfired outside police headquarters, allegedly causing them to think that a gun had been fired.

Altogether 137 rounds were shot by the 13 police officers - leading the judge to say it could not be demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that Brelo had fired the fatal shots.

'Stunning setback'

Brelo's trial came just months after the Justice Department accused the Cleveland Police Department of the systematic use of excessive force against civilians.

US Representative Marcia Fudge, a Democrat from Ohio, called the decision to acquit Brelo a "stunning setback on the road to justice."

Mayor Frank Jackson said an investigation into the other officers involved was ongoing.

"Now that the criminal court case has been concluded, the disciplinary process will resume for the remaining 14 officers that were involved either in the chase or the shooting," he said, adding that officers had been disciplined with punishments ranging from termination to suspension without pay.

The US Justice Department has said that its Civil Rights Division, the US Attorney's Office and the FBI will now consider taking federal action.

tj/sms (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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