Cleveland police arrested 71 people on Saturday during protests that erupted after officer Michael Brelo was acquitted of killing two unarmed black suspects who died in a hail of police gunfire. The 31-year-old Brelo continues to be suspended without pay and could still face administrative charges but his acquittal on two counts of voluntary manslaughter means he won’t be going to prison. Shortly after the verdict, people gathered for mostly peaceful protests but later in the day some demonstrators “crossed the line,” Police Chief Calvin Williams said on Sunday, according to Reuters.
“We only moved into make arrests when things got violent and protesters refused to disperse,” Williams said. “We wanted to make sure people understand we are going to help you in this process, but if things turn violent, we will take action to preserve safety.”
Police are reviewing video to determine who will face criminal charges, notes the Northeast Ohio Media Group, whose crime editor was arrested during the protests. Kris Wernowsky did not have his press pass on him when officers in riot gear picked up a group of protesters, “mostly young black men whose only crime seemed to be failing to get out of the street when police asked them to move.”
Despite the arrests, Ohio Gov. John Kasich said Cleveland should be seen as a model to the country due to the largely nonviolent reaction to Brelo’s acquittal. “They should be so proud of themselves and we should look at Cleveland as a model,” Kasich told ABC News’ This Week. “The people of Cleveland protest, they ought to protest, that’s their right, but violence has been kept to an absolute minimum in that city.”