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Protests simmer, but Cleveland ‘very calm’ after cop’s acquittal

Protesters marched in Cleveland Saturday after police officer Michael Brelo was found not guilty on all counts in the shooting of deaths of two black, unarmed suspects. Mark Naymik from The Plain Dealer joins Hari Sreenivasan via Skype.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR:

    For more on the verdict, I'm joined from Cleveland by Plain Dealer reporter, Mark Naymik.

    So, of the people you have talked to and the places you visited today that knew about the verdict, what was their reaction?

  • MARK NAYMIK, THE PLAIN DEALER:

    You know, some is — well, we expected it.

    Now, they may expect it because some — you know, identified their distrust of the justice system. Others, you know, thought, well, OK, that's what the evidence showed.

    But no one was surprised. No one voiced that to me.

    They are disappointed, they are frustrated, they use it as a point to talk about larger issues in the city, obviously economic issues, crime, and people want more attention paid to them and their issues. But nobody said to me, wow, I'm shocked.

  • SREENIVASAN:

    The mayor, Frank Jackson, called this a defining moment for the city.

    This is a city that's still on edge from Tamir Rice. There were scheduled protests for that today, right?

  • NAYMIK:

    Yes. And, in fact, that is just one of several more major decisions that I think will test both the police response, the organized demonstration response, and kind of the residents patience.

    Tamir Rice, over the last few weeks, that issue and today is the six-month anniversary since he was shot, that's why there were scheduled protests.

    That really seems to connect a little bit more than this Brelo verdict, which now dates back to 2012.

    Again, two people died, many people angry about it but Tamir Rice — the idea of 12-year-old boy, many people knew him, he was from a neighborhood on the west side — that one really has the emotional bunch that I think with this since the police chase and the shooting of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams is the one that could spark a stronger reaction. But right now, it's very calm.

  • SREENIVASAN:

    Yes. So, the chief of police said they are already planning to change their policy on high speed pursuits.

  • NAYMIK:

    And they have shown that in the last two weeks. We had a high speed chase that was called off and there were some criticism from the police union about that, saying that, you know, we let these people go away, we were get away.

    This was managed well. Nobody was at risk. They did get license plate information and the next day, they arrested that suspect.

    The city has been making that message a lot, but they have already changed policy, in reaction to that 2012 police chase that ended in the shooting.

    They are already talking about the changes they are making with so-called community policing and trying to connect with the residents — very important message to be sent right now at a time when people again are on edge and potentially ready to react.

    One of several — we have a department of justice consent decree that is being negotiated right now that should be done, in the next month or so.

    That will have a reaction. The Tamir Rice investigation is still not completed. That will have a reaction and whether they charge another potential flash point.

  • SREENIVASAN:

    All right. Mark Naymik, reporter from The Cleveland Plain Dealer, joining us via Skype — thanks so much.

  • NAYMIK:

    Thank you for having me.

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