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Cleveland Protests Over Michael Brelo Acquittal Lead to 71 Arrests

Some police officers near Quicken Loans Arena were wearing riot gear, according to The Associated Press.
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Protesters flooded the streets of Cleveland on Saturday, some chanting anti-police slogans, following the acquittal of a white police officer charged in the shooting deaths of two unarmed black motorists.

Cleveland police tweeted just after 11:30 p.m. ET that officers had made "multiple arrests" during demonstrations Saturday evening, although there were no reports of widespread unrest.

In one incident, police said in a separate tweet, three people were arrested after an object was hurled through a restaurant window, injuring a female patron.

The Associated Press reported about a dozen protesters were arrested for failing to disperse from an alley in the city's Warehouse District. NBC News could not immediately confirm that report.

At a Sunday morning press conference, officials said 71 people were arrested, including 39 adult men, 16 women and "a few juveniles." The charges were mostly obstruction of justice and "aggravated rioting."

The protests began Saturday morning after police officer Michael Brelo was found not guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the killings of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, both of whom were black, after a high-speed car chase in November 2012.

A throng of activists rallied outside the courthouse and chanted, "Hands up! Don't shoot!"

But the demonstrations throughout the afternoon were largely peaceful, with no apparent clashes between protesters and cops. A series of photos posted on social media showed 150 protesters blocking intersections and a downtown highway:

Cleveland's mayor and police chief said Saturday afternoon that they hoped protests would remain calm as the day went on.

“While the first amendment rights of those wishing to lawfully express their thoughts and views will be supported by the Division of Police," police chief Calvin D. Williams said, "any unlawful behavior, acts of violence or destruction of property, will not be tolerated.”

The killings of Russell and Williams three years ago cast a harsh light on the often tense relationship between law enforcement officers and minorities in Cleveland, and racial tensions in the city became even more strained last November after police shot and killed a black 12-year-old boy, Tamir Rice.

The verdict in the Brelo case follows protests and rioting last month in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old man who died after being injured in police custody, as well as recent unrest in New York and Ferguson, Missouri.


— Daniel Arkin

The Associated Press contributed to this report.