An Open Letter in the Aftermath of the Brelo Verdict
Editor’s Note: On May 23, Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo was acquitted in the shooting deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams.
I was in class, listening with one ear to the live stream of the Brelo verdict on my laptop. Another officer found not guilty, even though he fired the final 15 rounds out of 137 shots at Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. I had to tend to my daily duties while managing my disgust and outrage— a balancing act many of us know far too well when it comes to the Black Lives Matter movement, and just black life in general.
I have questions.
Officer Brelo, why did you jump on top of that car?
It is not police protocol to endanger yourself. If you were truly afraid, why would you go towards the perceived threat?
Mind you, a fleeing car does not seem like a threat to me, more like they were afraid of you, and rightfully so.
Police Union President Steve Loomis, why can officers elsewhere be fired for racist comments on social media, but Cleveland officers who KILLED two innocent people are walking around, with their jobs, with their pay, with their freedom?
It’s a joke.
Arbitrator Dennis Minni, was it easy for you to overturn the minimal consequences of those involved, again reiterating that black lives do not matter here? Instead of taxpayer money, perhaps you can use the officers’ suspended pay toward the lawsuits to come?
Judge O’Donnell, Ohio doesn’t even have the controversial stand-your-ground law, or anything explicitly pertaining to self-defense, but you bought into Brelo’s defense attorney’s claim that he feared for his life. Why can officers be afraid of unarmed black people, yet when we cry out no one wants to entertain the idea that we are afraid of police?
The militarization of those who are sworn to serve and protect us is frightening. The common misrepresentation of police in urban areas going into battle every day when they go to work is pure propaganda. It feeds fear. It fuels the overall machine that is mass incarceration, and destroys black communities across America. Any city will have crime, especially when the laws change to include more and more acts as criminal. The law isn’t playing fair, and it never has.
Mayor Frank Jackson, do you agree with the verdict? Do you condone this behavior?
I remember earlier this year at a community forum at the Cudell Recreational Center after Tamir Rice was murdered, you said our system was broken. Would you still agree? Do you realize you are a member of said system?
The verdict didn’t surprise me because we have witnessed time and time again that the justice system will not work for those it was never meant to protect. Everyday people must be hyper-vigilant of and involved in the political process. That is where the power is. The legislators that we voted for create these loopholes and technicalities, so that the status quo remains—the blatant disregard for the quality, or even existence, of black life.
This country has been raised on racism, and is awash in white supremacy. It harbors hostility and hatred for anyone different who dares to want the rights and privileges guaranteed to them as citizens. It secures its wealth and comfort via stereotypes, suspicions, and slaughter of black lives. It’s sustained by the silence of everyone else.
Often we are kept divided or even distracted. Cleveland again is the prime example of how so few may turn out to protest, but thousands will swell for support of the Cavs.
And here we are. The Cavaliers may win a championship, but Cleveland is still losing. Losing respect, losing credibility as a community, and losing black lives. “All in” is a great slogan for a basketball team, but shouldn’t we as a city take a stand against police brutality, empty promises, and crooked officials?
We want justice here. Only then, we’ll be all in.
One Confused Clevelander
Lauren Lynch-Novakovic is a social work intern with the ACLU of Ohio.