Dear Friends -
I cannot begin to tell you what a busy month it has been. I received more emails and more phone calls in one month than I have in the preceding two. With that, despite the Covid-19 restrictions, things are slowly starting to open up including many of our neighborhood businesses. That being said be safe and stay healthy.
I don’t have to tell anyone about the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and how it has affected our community and our state. We all know, for the most part, how it is transmitted and what the symptoms are. Please, follow the social distancing guidelines, use hand sanitizer and wear a protective face mask within close proximity of others. Furthermore, by all means, if you do have any symptoms, seek medical attention, immediately. Who would have thought that we would have lost over 120,000 of our fellow citizens to this unseen killer? By all indication, it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon and we are seeing a second spike in many states that have “re-opened.” Please continue to take care of yourself and your families. In the meantime, please support our local businesses whenever you can for, the economic impact has been devastating to them as well. Let’s all hope and pray that our Federal researchers and scientists can come up with a vaccine sooner rather than later.
I also want to address the racial and civil unrest that our country has experienced as a result of the brutal and vicious murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Cameras do not lie, my brothers and sisters. That is why I advocated for them for years for our CPD. More so, the fact that three other officers stood by and let it happen is inconceivable; to say that this was outrageous is an understatement. The reactions afterwards, the good, the bad and the ugly, are unprecedented.
Most people know that I am pro-law enforcement and respect our officers for the job they have been trained to do. As a young man growing up in Collinwood I saw firsthand the “real bad guys” and what they did to our community. It was then that I decided what side I needed to be on. We, as a community and a country, can never condone brutality, ignorance, racism or the violation of one’s civil rights in any form. We MUST demand accountability and professionalism from those individuals sworn to “protect and serve.” There come great responsibilities to those who carry a gun and wear a badge.
I say this because I know that the overwhelming number of police officers in our city are dedicated and conscientious men and women who work hard each day to protect us and to assure that our individual rights are upheld. However, we must weed out those who are unfit to serve if we are to have real justice and real peace in our society. In the City of Cleveland, I believe, we have made real progress in police reform as a result of the Department of Justice’s engagement in the City and how the police interact with our residents. Is more work needed? Yes. Real community engagement and policing must be the priority in this city.
On May 30, I was invited by Pastor Aaron Phillips, of the Greater Cleveland Clergy Coalition, to join with him and other pastors and congregations in a peaceful protest Downtown beginning at the Free Stamp to express our collective outrage as to what had happened in Minneapolis and elsewhere. I want to tell everyone, because, unfortunately, the news media in this country, all too often, has painted peaceful protesters along with rioters and looters, as one and the same. They are not. Peaceful protesting is a right guaranteed to all; rioting, looting, vandalism and destruction of private and public property is a criminal act.
Having been a part of the protest at the beginning, I can tell you, without any fear of contradiction, it wasn’t the members of the Urban League, the NAACP, Black on Black Crime Inc. or any of the members of the congregations that assembled that day, who caused the rioting, destruction and violence that ensued. It was a group of violent individuals who infiltrated the peaceful protest, whose sole intent was to cause mayhem. Innocent men, women and children were put at great risk along with law enforcement personnel, as a result. You should all know that the peaceful protesters’ civil rights were violated, in my opinion, by these terrorists who were dressed for the occasion, ready to throw objects at police officers, police horses, and to destroy public and private property in the Downtown area. They could have cared less who George Floyd was and why the peaceful protester had assembled.
You should also be aware, and let there be no confusion, the majority of the individuals who started the rioting were Caucasian young adults, who then linked up with our own homegrown criminals, the same ones causing havoc and crime in our neighborhoods, to cause widespread damage Downtown. Again, I was there, I saw this firsthand.
In addition, I also attended the peaceful march in Hough with many of my colleagues, longtime friends an activists. I found it tell-tale that none of the terrorists showed up in Hough. I wonder why? Is it because the residents of Hough would have never tolerated these criminals descending upon their neighborhood?
In closing, if the Covid-19 crisis and now the civil and racial unrest hasn’t taught us anything, then I don’t know what will. We, as Americans, and Clevelanders, in particular, must join together and care about each other more than ever before. Collectively, we MUST address racial and social injustice and the economic disparities that exist throughout our country and especially our eastside.
Do “Black Lives Matter?” You bet they do. So does every other American’s life. We are all connected together. That being said, let’s all recommit to working together as brothers and sisters. Even though we cannot work “side by side”, for the time being due to social distancing concerns, we MUST continue to “work together” to make our community and our city the best it can be. I look forward to continuing to work with each and every one of you for the good of the Greater Collinwood community.
Having said that, we cannot let any one group or individual divide us by race, religion, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation, etc. We know there are political opportunists and “race baiters” out there; in fact, we have a few in our own community. However, they really are a fringe minority, who will ultimately be exposed for who they are and what they stand for; nothing more than hate, ignorance and division. Don’t let those with personal or racist agendas divide our community or our city. We all have first amendment rights but we also the responsibility to protect each other’s rights, as well.
One last thing, just announced, a movement called, LIGHT UP COLLINWOOD FOR NEIGHBORHOOD UNITY, will take place on Sunday evening, July 5. This has been proposed by Deacon Pete Travalik of St Jerome’s Church and I whole-heartedly support the idea. Just turn your porch lights on at 9:30 PM to show unity with and support for one another. Step outside and say hello and wave to your neighbors. It’s that simple. Take photos and share them. The only way we can achieve and strive for a better society is by being united and welcoming.
Michael D. Polensek
Councilman, Ward 8