Dozens gathered Saturday night at the spot where 18-year-oldBrandon Jones was killed by a Cleveland police officer to demand justice and pay their respects.
They held hands and prayed underneath the sign for Parkwood Grocery, which proudly declares that it’s been black owned for more than 30 years. As the vigil began, they formed a circle around Jones’ immediate family and many cried.
They expressed frustration over the number of unarmed black men killed by police, but also urged young black men not to respond with violence and to reject a life of crime.
Jones broke into the Parkwood store by prying open the front door with a crowbar and then tried to make off with cigarettes and a stack of Canadian coins. Two officers confronted him on the sidewalk about 2:15 a.m. and tried to arrest him. One of them fired a shot during a struggle, which hit Jones in the chest.
The Cleveland Police Use of Deadly Force Investigation Team and the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office are investigating. The two officers were placed on a three-day administrative leave.
Participants in Wednesday’s vigil expressed anger about Jones’ death and the death of other black men and women at the hands of Cleveland police.
Some carried pictures of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy fatally shot by a Cleveland police officer Nov. 22, and Tanisha Anderson, a mentally ill woman who died after police forced her to the ground Nov. 13.
Jones’ 17-year-old sister Angie Jones said the officer who shot her brother needs to go to jail.
“There was two of them and there was one of him,” she said. “They could have done anything, but they decided to shoot him.”
A man who identified himself only as “James,” raised his middle finger toward a TV camera and made an obscene comment about the police.
Black people matter just as much as everyone else, James said. “We’ve got families and children just like everybody.”
Bill Swain, who described himself as a “revolutionary,” shouted the same obscene comment through a microphone before the vigil, but Judy Martin, member of the advocacy group Black on Black Crime, quickly waded through a crowd of people and convinced him to stop.
Members of Brandon’s family were given the chance to speak. His mother, Tanya Pearl, shook her head as tears streamed down her face, indicating that it was still too soon.
“I’m upset because my grandson was killed on the ground,” Brandon’s grandmother Calthonia Pearl said. “They wrestled him to the ground. They could have tazed him.”
The police who killed Jones, Tamir Rice and Tanisha Anderson are paid through Cleveland tax dollars, Pearl said. “We’re paying them to kill us.”
She then asked young people in the crowd to reject a life of crime, stick together and intervene if they see their friends going down the wrong path.
Martin echoed that sentiment.
“If you see your friend going toward an argument, talk to them, hug them, bring them back,” she said.
Loretta Ferguson, a member of the activist group Peace Alliance, urged the young men in the crowd not to offer violence as a solution in the wake of Jones’ death.
“She doesn’t need that kind of negativity right now,” Ferguson said with her hand on Tanya Pearl’s shoulder.
Ferguson asked the young people in the crowd to join activist groups or organize their own to make politicians understand that deaths at the hands of police are unacceptable