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LOUIS DUBOSE Royal Bryant: “we resent being called a mob.” Loyal Garner, Jr. a 34-year-old black man from Louisiana. Or Mexia, where three handcuffed young black men drowned on June 19, 1981, while in police custody. Some in the community have argued that action from the council would have been more decisive if all the officers were black. But the issue, as most see it, is police brutality. What goes on in the jail; according to Ms. Thomas, transcends race. “We have had white mothers come and tel us of similar incidents [physical abuse in the jail] after the Simpson death,” Ms. Thomas said, suggesting that the way one is treated in the Cleveland jail has as much to do with class as color. Others, gathered outside city hall while council members deliberated the fate of the officers, disagreed. “There is a different rule for how they treat blacks and whites,” one man suggested. “And you watch, the black officers are going to take the fall for what happened to Hambone [Simpson’s nickname].” But according to Ms. Thomas, treatment of black prisoners in the Cleveland jail is much better than it was a few years ago: “Three or four years ago, it was bad, very bad for blacks in jail. That’s not true today.” After the council’s March 22 executive session, and the announcement that there would be no change in the status of the suspended officers, black leaders began talking the language of empowerment. “See those people up there,” Albert Thomas, Jr., a postal employee \(and husband of Joyce time.” Outside, after the crowd was told to leave the chambers, Thomas continued. “We’re going to organize. We’re going to have a change of political leadership and we’re going to start with our precinct chairman [Deputy Sheriff Willie Carter, who was one of the officers involved in Simpson’s arrest and subsequent death].” “We resent being referred to as a mob,” Royal Bryant, a school bus driver and barber who once served on the council, said. “We are concerned citizens and our concerns are legitimate.” Bryant, and Ruben Johnson, another leader in the black community, represent a group that formed when 200 gathered for a community meeting at McDuffie’s Funeral Chapel the day after Simpson died. Bryant said that the group, which will devote some of its effort to conflict resolution, will also encourage participation from the white community. White sympathy with the Simpson case was noticeably absent, early on. Although the Mayor has met with the Simpson family, only two working class white women showed up at the press conference -that developed into a community protest where results of Simpson’s autopsy were released. And one white family and one white man stood by at city hall while hundreds of blacks maintained a vigil during the executive session called to discuss the status of the suspended officers. The group’s agenda, however, will also include electoral politics in the black commu nity. Before the March 24 meeting, at the old and partially abandoned Douglas School campus in the heart of Cleveland’s black community, some activists talked of voter registration, selection of block captains, and encouraging residents to become politically active. “Only 400 blacks voted in the last city election,” Joyce Thomas said before the meeting. “We used to have the largest precinct in Texas . . . it was written up in Texas Monthly.” Ms. Thomas said the group will try to get the number up to 2,500. Black advances in electoral politics will probably come slowly here. The council is elected at-large and the community is polarized and predominantly white. One black woman, Meta Thothas, a high school teacher who won a race for a seat vacated by her husband’s death, serves on the council. Ms. Thomas is cautious and moderate and so far has refused to comment publicly on the coun cil’s response to Simpson’s death. “She represents the interest of the black community and all of Cleveland,” Joyce Thomas said. “And she does it very well. But she is only one member of council.” No single issue, not even the turf fights that followed integration of the schools in the early ’70s, has brought the black community together like the death of Kenneth Earl Simpson has. Both Joyce and Albert Thomas insist that they have no interest in running for elected office. Their interest, they claim, is in making the city government accountable to the black community. And involving white residents of Cleveland in a broader movement to improve police and other city services. Six hundred twenty-eight turned out for the group’s first organizational meeting at the Douglas school gym. Approximately 50 were white. 10 APRIL 8, 1988