- The Washington Times - Monday, July 27, 2015

A “Black Lives Matter” rally held in Cleveland over the weekend briefly turned tumultuous when local police discharged pepper spray at participants while attempting to disperse a crowd of protesters.

Video footage filmed by eyewitnesses during Saturday afternoon’s event showed a police officer pepper-spraying a group of people who had become agitated when a 14-year-old boy was taken into custody during the rally.

The teen was reportedly intoxicated on a city bus and had become “unable to care for himself,” prompting police to board the vehicle and take the boy into custody, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority said.

A crowd quickly gathered around the scene, however, and law enforcement resorted to clearing the area by discharging pepper spray at the protesters, officials said.

“The crowd then surrounded the car, and attempted to remove the juvenile from the car. By this time, several other law enforcement agencies had also responded,” the transit agency said. “The crowd kept the police car from leaving the area. A transit police officer used a general burst of pepper spray in an attempt to push back the crowd, to no avail.”

Several eyewitnesses quickly posted clips of the incident online.

The transit officer was identified as Sgt. Robert Schwab, a 25-year veteran, who was placed on administrative leave pending investigation.

No arrests were made in relation to the incident, and the teen was released to his mother later in the evening, the transit agency said.

Saturday’s event was held under the banner of “Black Lives Matter,” a nationwide movement that has spawned similar protests and rallies in recent months on the heels of a handful of high-profile incidents in which blacks had died either in police custody or as a result of law enforcement conduct.

Then-Attorney General Eric Holder said in December that the Justice Department had concluded after a 1½-year investigation that the government had uncovered evidence of “systematic deficiencies,” “inadequate training” and “ineffective policies” exhibited by the Cleveland Police Department, as well as “unreasonable and unnecessary use of force” and “inadequate engagement with the community.”

Weeks before the Justice Department probe had concluded, a 13-year-old boy, Tamir Rice, was fatally shot by a Cleveland Police Department officer who encountered the child waving a toy gun in an area playground. Last month, a judge in Cleveland concluded there was probable cause to charge two officers with counts related to the boy’s death.

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