(CLEVELAND, OH - 5/24/13) -- The Cleveland chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Cleveland), the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) and the Carl Stokes Brigade, along with other groups recently convened an organizing forum for more than 30 community activists from across the greater Cleveland area.
Topics ranged from immigration reform to improving civilian oversight over police to plans for direct action related to the recent fatal Cleveland police shooting of two unarmed African-Americans.
"The purpose of these forums is to bring together various civil and human rights leaders and organizations to form a more united front to work on social justice issues together," said CAIR-Cleveland Executive Director Julia A. Shearson.
[CAIR-Cleveland is one of the local anchors of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and has had an active role in organizing the ongoing series of community forums. The next forum will be held on August 17, 2013 and will be cohosted by the Carl Stokes Brigade and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, CAIR-Cleveland and others.]
Forum participants also discussed recent community engagement with the Department of Justice during the DOJ's ongoing pattern and practice investigation into the use of force by the Cleveland Police Department. The Deputy United States Attorney General for Civil Rights, Thomas Perez, announced the start of the investigation in Cleveland on March 14, 2013. As part of the investigation, the Department of Justice has begun a series of outreach meetings to community groups including CAIR, the Carl Stokes Brigade, and others to gather information on police conduct in Cleveland.
Also at the forum were: Judy Martin of Survivors and Victims of Tragedy, who shared information about community action and police practices related to missing persons in the city; Bilal Mafundi Ali of the LA Community Coalition for Self-Defense Campaign who presented on police accountability; Don Bryant and Mariah Crenshaw who presented on issues related to the 137 shooting; and Marva and David Patterson of the Carl Stokes Brigade who presented on the DOJ pattern and practice investigation.
The Bill of Rights Defense Committee forum was the third in a series of ongoing organizing events to engender collective action on social justice issues in greater Cleveland. Leaders from a broad spectrum of the community participated in the forum, including activists from the American Friends Service Committee; Black on Black Crime; the Methodist Church; HOLA! Greater Cleveland Immigrant Support Network; Carl Stokes Brigade; Audacity of Hope Foundation; Imperial Women; Food Not Bombs; Oppressed People's Nation; Coalition for a Better Life; Organizing for Action; Survivors and Victims of Tragedy; CAIR and many others. The meeting was facilitated by nationally-known civil and human rights organizer, George Friday, National Field Organizer of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee based in Washington, D.C.