The event was organized by the Minorities Together Movement, formed over the past month by Hawken School freshman Ethan Khorana and Gilmour sophomore Madison Maynard, who planned the march and rally “in honor of people killed by police brutality.”
The Memorial Day killing of George Floyd figured in symbolically, with marchers taking a knee for over 8 minutes, as did the Minneapolis police officer who pinned Floyd’s neck to the pavement -- “a hell of a long time to stand on someone’s head,” Ethan noted.
But the Minorities Together Movement actually started in the aftermath of the shooting death of Georgia jogger Ahmaud Arbery
, which happened in February, but didn’t cause national outcry until a video was leaked two months later.
“Originally, it was just going to be mostly a letter-writing campaign, but it’s already grown out of necessity,” said Ethan, who knew Madison from the Ruffing Montessori School in Cleveland Heights. “And we don’t just cover racism -- we also cover the LGBTQ
community, women’s rights and people with disabilities.”
Or, as Madison summarized, the Minorities Together Movement opposes police brutality on the basis of “racism, sexism, homophobia and disabilities. And when it comes to ‘Black Lives Matter,’ that applies to Black women, Black transgender people and Black LGBTQ-plus people.”Police reforms sought
In addition to believing that June 19, or “Juneteenth
,” should be declared a national holiday commemorating the end of slavery in America, Madison also feels that becoming a police officer should take more than the current standard of 21 weeks of training.
“That’s less training than it takes to become a barber, a massage therapist or an electrician,” she told the crowd after they arrived at City Hall. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
More stringent licensing for officers is one of the issues Madison and Ethan would like to address next week when they meet with Shaker Heights Mayor David Weiss and Police Chief Jeffrey DeMuth to discuss proposed changes to the city’s policing system
The Minorities Together Movement would also like to see community review boards set up for police, along with "mandatory implicit bias training," public databases and less tax money put toward paramilitary training and equipment.
Weiss, who took part in Saturday’s march and rally, had issued his citywide report
to residents the day before, noting that “Juneteenth” provides the opportunity to reflect on an important moment in U.S. history.
"It also serves as a reminder that we have much work to do, which is a good segue into the continuing local and national discussion we are having regarding racial equity and justice," Weiss added.
He cited a number of "action steps" now being pursued as a result of conversations with residents and community organizations, as well as the commitments and pledges that Weiss and City Council have made.
The city’s webpage
now features enhanced transparency, with details on police accreditation, recruiting, hiring and training, including bias-free policing and de-escalation techniques, along with community engagement.
Some of that training was derailed temporarily by the COVID-19 outbreak and is resuming now, Weiss noted.
“We’re also in the early stages of creating an advisory group made up of primarily residents, diverse and inclusive, that will provide and help guide our community conversations on a wide range of issues relating to health, to race and equity, including community policing, housing, health and community involvement,” Weiss stated.
Then there was the June 8 resolution
passed by council expressing outrage and condemning the killing of Floyd, as well as supporting the right of Americans to peacefully protest.
Councilwoman Carmella Williams, who helped write that legislation, spoke at Saturday's Unity Rally.
"This nation's inability to acknowledge racism is at the heart of our problem," Williams said of the "complicated relationship with equity and justice."
Williams believes it would be helpful to "think of racism like the virus that it is, having permeated every aspect of our society. It is not an African-American problem; it's an American problem."
Equally disheartening are the deaths that followed Floyd’s, including that of Rayshard Brooks
, shot twice in the back June 12 as he fled a Wendy’s parking lot with a stun gun taken from one of the officers trying to arrest him on a drunken-driving charge.Cautionary tales
The rally’s lead-off speaker was Lawrence Lane, a friend of the Khorana family who is old enough to remember military trucks riding through his neighborhood during riots in 1968. Now he would like to see more “community policing” in those neighborhoods.
Lane also recounted a blatantly racist traffic stop he endured for “driving while Black” during a visit to Atlanta and the concerns registered by Black parents everywhere.
"This is not about 'Black and White,'" Lane said. "It's about right and wrong. This is not against the police -- it's about those that don't understand the value of life."
Lane added that it really sunk in when he knelt for all that time on Saturday. Williams thought about the look on the officer's face as he "crushed the life" out of George Floyd.
"That is pure hatred," Lane said. "How can you be so callous? Enough is enough."
Adding that “‘Black Lives Matter’ is not a trend” but a movement that will continue until real change is made, Madison ran through a long list of victims, telling the crowd to “say their names
” in memoriam.
And while Madison and Ethan are still too young to vote, they urged those adults who were not yet registered to do so at the table set up by volunteers outside City Hall.
For the march, Shaker police and auxiliaries had blocked off traffic at intervals along a route that started outside Woodbury Elementary School and continued along Clayton Boulevard.
City Parks and Recreation Director Alexandria Nichols said the organizers originally wanted to just hold the rally in the City Hall parking lot. But city officials recommended the grassy slope right off the route, with trees also there to provide some shade on a hot day.
"And, of course, most importantly, we will continue to listen and to learn from each of you," Weiss said in the June 19 mayor's report. "We know how active and passionate this community is about these issues. And we look forward to continuing that engagement."
Read more from the Sun Press.