Congregations push for criminal justice reform in Cleveland

An estimated 600 people from over 40 faith congregations gathered in Cleveland, Ohio this lunchtime to deliver a letter to Mayor Frank Jackson calling for comprehensive criminal justice reform following several high-profile cases and a severely critical Department of Justice report.

On Saturday, the verdict was announced in the case of Officer Michael Brelo, accused of firing the fatal shots in a barrage of 137 bullets that killed Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams in 2012. Officer Brelo was found not guilty of all charges. The case sparked a DoJ investigation into the use of force by the Cleveland Police Department.

Cleveland city leadership announced today that the city has reached an agreement with the DoJ over the use of force report. According to the Plain Dealer, the Rev. Jawanza K. Colvin, one of the leaders of today’s rally by Greater Cleveland Congregations said,

he had not read the decree but that he has met with officials who assured him that their group’s input was taken into consideration. “It’s not a time for celebration, but it’s good that they recognize our input and how important this issue is,” Colvin said. “But until we thoroughly read it and can’t really say anything. We hope that it has some teeth to it.”

Outside City Hall, the Very Rev. Tracey Lind, Dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral and co-founder of the Greater Cleveland Congregations, quoted from her sermon for Pentecost Sunday:

Over 2500 years ago, sitting by a river, looking at the despair of his community, God asked the prophet Ezekiel: “Can these bones live?” And the prophet responded: “O Lord God, you know.” Then God said to Ezekiel: “Prophesy to these bones and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord…I will cause breath to enter you and you shall live…I will put my spirit within you and you shall live.”

Right now, sitting by another river in Cleveland, Ohio, lots of us are asking the same question: “Can these bones live?” The bones of Timothy Russell, Malissa Williams, Tanisha Anderson and Tamir Rice are dead. So many innocent men, women and children are killed everyday by violence and despair.

So, can these bones live? …

Four years ago, members of 40 churches, synagogues and mosques, representing some 20,000 residents of Greater Cleveland looked at the challenges of our community and asked this very question: “Can these bones live?”  We then looked at one another and answered, “Yes, if we work together, with God’s help, these bones can live.” We imagined a place where people are healthy, children are well educated, workers are employed in good jobs, nobody goes hungry, everybody feels safe, and all are treated with dignity and respect.

With the grace and power of God, over the past four years GCC has answered in the affirmative the prophet’s question. Dry bones can live! By connecting and building relationships with one another, by breaking down long-standing silos and old barriers, by taking the risk to know one another and bear each other’s burdens, by dreaming together, learning together, working together, crying together, praying together and organizing together, we have been making the dry bones of our city come to life.

The Greater Cleveland Congregations press release is here.

Posted by Rosalind Hughes [full disclosure: this reporter took part in the action as a member of clergy in Greater Cleveland]

 

Category : The Lead
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One Comment
  1. Philip B. Spivey

    This Lead story cries out for witness: 137 bullets; 2 human lives; 68 bullets per victim. The perp?…an employee of the criminal justice system. Will these events finally sear the American conscience?

    I’m praying Cleveland is an historic flash point.

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