Cleveland officer pepper-sprays crowd near Black Lives Matter conference

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

A Black Lives Matter conference in Cleveland took a disheartening turn on Sunday evening when a transit police officer pepper-sprayed attendees protesting the reported arrest of a teenage boy.

The Guardian reports that a crowd formed near Cleveland State University, where the first annual Black Lives Matter conference was held, in protest of Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) officers detaining an intoxicated 14-year-old who had been riding the bus. After the teen was placed in a police cruiser, protesters blocked the vehicle, and that's when the transit officer pepper-sprayed the crowd.


"When we have an officer who comes out of nowhere and is pushing people and then takes out and just starts spraying with his pepper spray, that's not de-escalation," Rhonda Y. Williams, a history professor at Case Western Reserve who had attended the Black Lives Matter conference, told NBC affiliate WKYC.

The 14-year-old was released to his mother at the scene of the protest, according to the RTA.

UPDATE, 6:53 p.m.: Fusion has obtained an incident report from the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA), who have also updated the statement on their website.

Despite earlier reports to the contrary, the statement says that officers did not plan to arrest the 14-year-old; it claims that officers intended to transport the boy to the station until a parent or legal guardian could pick him up.

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

Fear of an arrest seems to be a motivating factor for the crowd that formed around the police cruiser containing the teenager, which grew to about 100 people according to the incident report. It sounds like they wanted to provide a watchful eye over him until his mother could pick him up; according to the statement, demonstrators offered to call the detained boy's mother and to have the officers release him into their custody until she could arrive.


The officer who pepper-sprayed the crowd of protesters is Sgt. Robert Schwab, the statement says. He has been placed on administrative duties until an investigation into the incident is complete. Neither the statement or incident report clarified who will helm the investigation.

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