CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Two different rallies for opposing causes met in downtown Cleveland today, hoping to stand in support for those that each group believes to truly need it.
“I’ve wanted to be a police officer since I was 15 years old,” Sarah Sacha, organizer of the “Back the Blue” rally, said. She is currently in college studying criminal justice. “I have family who works for CPD and I wanted to give people a voice and let the world know that there are people who still support the police.”
A few blocks away, next to the Free Stamp in Willard Park, Chris Piazza participated in the counter-demonstration. Piazza is the legal director for the organization “With Peace We Protest”. He also explains that his boyfriend, a black man, is facing discrimination in the criminal system while incarcerated.
“Blue lives don’t actually exist,” Piazza said. “Blue is a job, when you take your uniform off you go back to being whatever color you were beforehand, so it’s not rally a thing.”
Demonstrators marched through downtown before eventually making a stop in Public Square, where participants stopped for a moment of silence: “What we really need to be focusing on is then the black lives that are being killed and arrested unfairly and the hands of police officers,” Piazza said.
“When we say ‘black lives matter’ some people take that as ‘only black lives matter,’ and that’s clearly not the case,” he added. “We understand that every single person has worth, the problem is that right now in today’s society, and in our systems and in our government and criminal justice system, black lives don’t matter.”
Sacha says she hopes people will understand the nuances within groups that support law enforcement: “Those who support the police aren’t naive to the fact that there are corrupt police officers and there are things that need changes,” she said. “We don’t support the idea that all cops are horrible people because that’s not true.”
Meanwhile, Piazza hopes bystanders will be more willing to listen to their message of social justice.
“We realize we’re not going to end racism in one day, we understand that. What would be a successful event today is that we get there, we get our message out, we get heard, and that we go home, there’s no violence, there’s no arrests, and everything ends up peaceful,” he said.