CLEVELAND – Several hundred people marched down an exit ramp and temporarily blocked rush-hour traffic on a busy freeway on Tuesday while protesting a police officer's fatal shooting of a 12-year-old boy who had brandished a realistic-looking novelty gun.
Police diverted traffic but didn't take action against the protesters, who chanted phrases such as "Hands up, don't shoot" and "No justice, no peace" as they sat in a major intersection before marching past City Hall and onto state Route 2.
The protesters were demonstrating after the death of Tamir Rice, who was shot Saturday when police responded to a 911 call about a gun at a playground. Police later determined Tamir had an airsoft gun, which typically shoots tiny plastic pellets, but it was missing its orange safety indicator.
The demonstration came as protesters across the country blasted a grand jury's decision not to indict a white police officer who killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri.
Cleveland police Chief Calvin Williams was observing and conferring with officers about the local protest but declined to immediately comment.
The crowd blocked the freeway for about an hour before returning to a downtown square, where it dispersed. The demonstrators passed by the Cuyahoga County jail, causing inmates to bang on their windows.
Among the protesters was 17-year-old Naesha Pierce, who said she had stayed up until 3 a.m. watching television news coverage from Ferguson, where people marched in streets, destroyed police cars and set businesses on fire.
"The system wasn't made to protect us," she said. "To get justice, the people themselves have to be justice."
The crowd included people of various races and groups of students from at least three area colleges.
"This is the way our democracy is supposed to work, to come out and express your opinions," Mike Brickner, senior policy director for ACLU of Cleveland, said as the protesters demonstrated near Public Square.
Attorneys for Tamir's family have asked police to release the complete surveillance video of the confrontation between him and the officer.
Police allowed the family's attorneys to watch the video on Monday and said they would release video footage on Wednesday. Officials noted that the video is considered evidence and said they wanted to be sensitive to the family, the community and the officer, whom they described as distraught.
Police say Tamir was told to raise his hands but pulled what appeared to be a handgun from his waistband. Police say the video is clear, but they wouldn't discuss details of what it shows.
At a community meeting Tuesday night, Williams and Mayor Frank Jackson were among the officials fielding questions from some of the more than 300 people present, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported.
Residents talked about Tamir's death but also about other local crimes and violent confrontations between police and citizens.