CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Mayor Frank Jackson and Police Chief Calvin Williams discussed this week's Tamir Rice protests and outlined the city's next steps in the wake of the grand jury's decision not to indict officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback for the November 2014 deadly shooting of Tamir Rice.
Rice, 12, was shot outside the Cudell Recreation Center on West Blvd. He was armed with a pellet gun.
Mayor Jackson said there are three concerns among citizens when it comes to the criminal justice system, including lack of access, lack of justice, and lack of empathy.
"Transparency is I think a very important part of this and that is why I continue to have these [media briefings]," said Mayor Jackson.
The mayor and Chief Williams also addressed the so-called "comfort disrupting" protests that have taken place in the streets of downtown Cleveland and are slated to continue at 9 p.m. on New Year's Eve.
"This is what happens in a democracy. People have the right to get out there and express themselves and it's our job as a department, as a city, to protect them while they're doing that," Chief Williams said.
Mayor Jackson said he is aware that protesters are breaking the law by blocking intersections and protesting without permits, but his main concern, and that of the Division of Police is to exercise their right of free speech, safely.
"We would do whatever is necessary to do what the chief said to ensure that people have their constitutional right to protest and to be safe in doing that, but also protect the interest of the public and property," the mayor said.
People upset with the grand jury decision protested in Cleveland Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evening.
Mayor Jackson has said he welcomes protesters, but said the police will not tolerate anyone destroying property or hurting others.
So far, no protesters have been arrested and there has been no property damage.
"I think for the most part people have gotten their message across. You know, we're right now, as the mayor said, we engage people all the time and we're really trying to engage people as to what is the next step," said Chief Williams.
Officers Loehmann and Garmback remain on restricted duty until the administrative process is completed. Cleveland 19 asked the mayor and chief if the city would give in to the demands made by the protesters Wednesday. They demanded three things: that Loehmann, Garmback and prosecutor Tim McGinty all lose their jobs.
"If I would say to you yes, or if I would say to you no, then I all I would be doing is going through a process that is going through the motions, because I've already decided we are going to look at this in a due process way," said Mayor Jackson.
"The committee is put together to review the incident from start to finish, to take into consideration also, grand jury testimony. We are going to request those records from the county. The sheriff did an investigation on this. We are going to request their investigation to make sure that we aren't missing anything. All that in totality will determine if there was wrongdoing on the part of these officers," said Williams.
Both the mayor and the chief said that no matter how many protesters show up to march they will be escorted by police.
"We try to be there while they're doing it, because it's very difficult to get something back under control once it's gotten out of control, and if you're not there on the ground with them it creates a problem," Mayor Jackson said.
Jackson also said he didn't think that the cost of manpower for policing the protesters was putting too much of a strain on city resources, but stressed that financial concerns were not the city's top priority.
"This is not a financial thing for us," said Mayor Jackson. "Our concern is to allow for the them to exercise their right, civil disobedience in that way of breaking the law is part of protesting."
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