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Clergy from more than three dozen churches recently prayed as they walked from Cleveland City Hall to the Cuyahoga County Justice Center with hundreds of protestors just hours before a non-guilty verdict was rendered in the trial of Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo.
The march attracted clergy from many faiths. It is one of several marches area clergy have organized in recent months. Cleveland Clergy Alliance organized the recent march. Clergy chanted, “All lives matter,” as they marched.
“Cleveland will never be the great city it aspires to be until it takes seriously the overwhelming cries for comprehensive criminal justice reform,” said the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, of Local Church Ministries.”
“Pervasive and disgusting racial disparities exist throughout the system – disparities in arrest rates, excessive use of police force, prosecutions, sentencing guidelines, mass incarceration and oppressive stigmatization of ex-offenders – that all adds up to a broken, complex system that unfairly targets the civil rights and economic opportunities of our African-American neighbors,” Guess said.
According to reports from WKYC-TV in Cleveland, clergy are pressuring Mayor Frank Jackson and City Council to enact police policy reform, become more transparent, and adopt a zero-tolerance policy for racial profiling.
“We going to make a difference if it is 100, 200,” said the Rev. Lorenzo Norris chair of the Cleveland Clergy Alliance. “We will be back until we make a difference.”
Multiple pastors spoke on the steps of City Hall. Those who could not attend sent statements that were read aloud, including one by North Shore AFL-CIO Executive Secretary Harriet Applegate.
“I want to express the solidarity of the AFL-CIO with you in the struggle for racial justice,” Applegate said in a statement. “We have made progress over the years but we still have so much more work to do. It is my hope that we can do this work together as one people, as one community because in truth that is what we are.”
According to Cleveland Jewish News, a crowd of about 1,000 marched through the streets, chanting, “We can’t wait.” About 40 congregations from greater Cleveland were represented in the march.
“We are encouraging people in the Jewish community to stay connected to what’s happening on the issues of criminal justice reform,” said Rabbi Robert A. Nosanchuk, senior rabbi at Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple in Beachwood.
The Very Rev. Tracey Lind, dean of Trinity Cathedral, said during the rally, “(This march) is another step on our journey of building a more just and greater Cleveland.”
(Compiled from press and news reports)