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71 Protesters Arrested in Cleveland

  • VOA News

Protesters are escorted to a bus for transport after getting arrested after protesting the acquittal of Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo, May 23, 2015, in Cleveland, Ohio.

Protesters are escorted to a bus for transport after getting arrested after protesting the acquittal of Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo, May 23, 2015, in Cleveland, Ohio.

A total of 71 people have been arrested in the central U.S. city of Cleveland during protests following the acquittal of a white policeman in the shooting deaths of two unarmed blacks in 2012.

The city's streets were calm early Sunday after the Saturday night protests. Earlier Saturday, a judge acquitted a Cleveland police officer who fired the last 15 of 137 rounds police shot at the suspects during a high-speed car chase.

Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo, center, listens to the judge reading his verdict during his trial in Cleveland, Ohio, May 23, 2015.

Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo, center, listens to the judge reading his verdict during his trial in Cleveland, Ohio, May 23, 2015.

Patrolman Michael Brelo stood on the hood of the suspects' car and fired through the windshield at its unarmed occupants. But Judge John O'Donnell ruled that it was not clear which shots killed Timothy Russell and Melissa Williams, those fired by Brelo or by 12 other officers who took part in the chase.

Despite the verdict in the criminal case, Cleveland has already paid families of Russell and Williams $1.5 million apiece to settle wrongful death lawsuits.

Brelo remains suspended from the Cleveland police force without pay pending resolution of administrative charges. Five police supervisors involved in the case face dereliction of duty charges for failing to control the chase.

In a statement issued after O'Donnell's verdict, the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice said they have been monitoring the case.

The Justice Department said it will not review the testimony and evidence presented at the trial, but will determine if additional steps are available and appropriate.

Judge O'Donnell said Saturday "the verdict should be no cause for a civilized society to celebrate or riot."

The case is the latest in the U.S. where white police officers have been accused of using excessive force in street incidents, killing black suspects who have turned out be unarmed.

The verdict comes as authorities are investigating two other high profile cases in Cleveland involving the deaths of black people at the hands of police.

Twelve-year-old Tamir Rice who was playing with a replica gun when he was shot by Cleveland police responding to an emergency call about a man with a gun. He died a day after the shooting. Prosecutors are also investigating the death of Tanisha Anderson, who died while handcuffed in police custody last year. The medical examiner ruled her death a homicide, citing her physical restraint by police as well as her mental illness and a heart condition.

Some material for this report came from AFP and Reuters.

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