No let up in fight to stop police killings in Cleveland

Since the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice on Nov. 22 by a white Cleveland police officer, the movement against racist police brutality in this city has maintained strength and intensity. Tamir Rice’s name is also being raised in the protests around the country against police terror, and is now known internationally.

For the second week in a row, hundreds of activists marched on City Hall. On Dec. 8, most of the marchers then filed into the weekly City Council meeting. Dozens were soon escorted out of council chambers after chanting and shouting demands. Members of Mayor Frank Jackson’s cabinet fled the room after being confronted by Councilmembers Jeff Johnson, a former state legislator, and Zack Reed.

Protesters demanded the firing of officers Timothy Loehmann, who fatally shot Tamir Rice, and Frank Garmback, who was with Loehmann and participated in the attempted cover-up. Upon arriving at the scene, Loehmann immediately fired two shots into Rice, who at that moment was not even holding what turned out to be a toy gun. Now, city officials and even the police’s so-called “union” appear willing to let “bad apple” Loehmann become a casualty. They feel the heat for what a recent Department of Justice report termed a widespread “pattern or practice” of police abuse in Cleveland.

A week of daily protests, including die-ins and blocking traffic, followed the City Hall action. Activists are also demanding justice for Tanisha Anderson, who, too, was killed in November, a victim of a “takedown” maneuver by city police. They had arrived after family members requested an ambulance to take her to the hospital.

Protesters demonstrated on Dec. 11 outside the home where she was killed.

The “pattern or practice” of police killings — almost always of African Americans — has existed in Cleveland as long as anyone can remember.

“This goes back to Michael Pipkins,” said longtime activist Donnie Pastard. Pipkins was killed in 1992 by police using a chokehold technique similar to that applied against Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., in July.

Activists picketed City Hall for a year, finally achieving a victory when the City Council voted to ban police use of chokeholds. What followed this victory, however, was an increase in fatal police shootings. In fact, Pipkins’ killer, Michael Tankersley, was kept on the police force and was involved in the deadly shooting of a Latino man, Illuminado Lopez, in 2011. (ABCnewsnet5cleveland, Aug. 1, 2011)

The people of Cleveland, like the rest of the country, want the killings stopped now.

Susan Schnur contributed to this article.