Civil rights activists in Cleveland have invited like-minded people to their city to protest the prosecutor’s decision not to bring murder charges against the two police officers responsible for the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
As tensions mounted Wednesday, the NAACP’s Cleveland Branch joined a coalition of groups — which includes the Cleveland Renaissance Movement, Black People in Progress and Nation of Islam — to outline their demands for the City of Cleveland:
• The release of transcripts from the grand jury.
• The removal of Timothy McGinty as prosecutor for Cuyahoga County; and in the event that is not forthcoming, we will work for the defeat of Timothy McGinty at the polls and bring to an end his reign of bias and failure to protect the rights of victims.
• We demand a re-negotiation of the CPAA contract with special focus on the Arbitration to reinstate murderers to active duty.
• We demand that the City of Cleveland identify the areas of the CPPA contract that are in conflict with the Consent Decree and that have contributed to the Police Department’s Pattern and Practice of Excessive Use of Force.
Basheer Jones, the founder of the Cleveland Renaissance Movement, said he thinks that eyes across the globe will focus on Cleveland as protesters from all ethnic, political and religious groups come together to demand justice.
“Not only is this a black thing or a Democratic thing, but you have conservatives and independents who are involved. You have blacks, whites, Muslims, Christians, Jews. You have so many people involved saying, ‘Hey, this is a problem,’” Jones said in an interview with Yahoo News.
In a news release, the coalition accused McGinty of bringing ridicule and embarrassment to their community, making intemperate remarks, disparaging victims’ families, and wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars and man-hours to counter justice in police-involved shootings.
Michael Nelson, president of the NAACP’s Cleveland branch, said at a press conference that he thinks the transcripts could be released because of great community interest and the “bizarre nature” of the grand jury proceeding.
“You had a prosecutor who was actually engaged well beyond the process. Instead of presenting the evidence [and] allowing the grand jury to make a decision, he makes a recommendation for no indictment. How did he get to that?” Nelson told reporters. “He says, ‘Well, the kid looked older than a kid. Looks like he had a gun.’ But there was no gun present. There was no gun aimed. There was nobody in danger!”
Regardless, Nelson continued, if Tamir was an adult and actually had a firearm, he would have been protected by Ohio’s open carry laws. He characterized McGinty’s actions as “ridiculous.”
At the conference, Jones said the coalition will encourage supporters to oppose McGinty, who is running for reelection, at the voting booth during the March primary. Their official endorsement for an alternative candidate is forthcoming, he said.
“Are we asking people to burn things up? Are we asking for people to destroy things? What we’re asking for justice. That’s what we are asking for,” he said.
The people of Cleveland, he said, should prepare for protests the likes of which they have never seen before.
When asked whether his call for civil disobedience was “inciting something,” Jones countered that McGinty and the cops who killed Tamir are the true instigators.
According to Jones, the current criminal justice system has continually demonstrated that it does not care about the least among us, and many civilians are more concerned about damaged property than murdered black children.
“You are more afraid, Cleveland, of a building being burned than life being taken? You are more upset with a Cavs game being postponed — a basketball game — than the lives of black lives who continue to be lost? And not only murdered, but those who murder them continue to get off?” Jones said.
Peaceful protests were held in Cleveland on Monday after McGinty announced that officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback would not face charges for the fatal shooting of a child holding a toy gun at a playground in November 2014 as it was a “perfect storm” of human error.
“The death of Tamir Rice was an absolute tragedy,” he said. “It was horrible, unfortunate and regrettable. But it was not by the law that binds us a crime.”
Joseph Frolik, director of communications and public policy for the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office, declined to comment when contacted by Yahoo News to discuss the coalition’s demands.
“Yeah, there is nothing to say about that,” Frolik said.