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Cleveland's dividing lines over race issues come to light under Trump

Chris McGreal via The Guardian


The Ohio city is one of America’s most racially segregated and under Trump, many fear a conflict between the black community and mostly white police force.

It’s not easy being a black cop in Cleveland. During his 23 years in uniform, and now as a detective, Lynn Hampton has weaved a tricky path between the city’s African American majority and its overwhelmingly white, sometimes trigger-happy police department. Some in the black community called him a sellout. A few white colleagues regard him as an infiltrator. But Hampton did not give up working to bridge the divide.

Then came Donald Trump.

“We’re trying to keep a lid on this thing here. You’ve got people in this city saying the police department is racist, that we are neo-Nazis,” said Hampton. “Now with Trump coming on the scene, spewing out these bigotries, my community is quite frankly saying this dude is a racist. Then he’s talking about bringing back law and order again, and we know what that meant in the past. What’s that saying to the black community? We’re opening back up open season on African Americans. That’s what people are thinking.”

Hampton, wearing a brown trilby and a gold detective’s badge on a chain around his neck, added that it was bad enough that Trump used the election campaign to push for a return of discredited “stop and frisk” policies, and to accuse Black Lives Matter of being responsible for the killings of police officers.

Those “reckless” pronouncements did not go unnoticed in a city marred by two of the most notorious police shootings of recent times, including the killing of 12 year-old Tamir Rice. But then, Cleveland’s overwhelmingly white police union piled in by taking the unprecedented step of endorsing Trump for president.

“Bad move. Horrible move,” said Hampton, who is a member of the union. “A slap in the face to the community which you serve. What message does that send to black people about the attitude of the police?” Now the 57-year-old detective finds himself caught between an increasingly alarmed African American community, and a department he fears will retreat to a mindset more akin to military occupation than policing.

“What kind of society does he want to create? Where we headed? You can’t continue to back people into a corner without anybody eventually getting tired and striking out. Are we going to have more violence against police officers? Is that what he wants? That’s the very thing that I’m trying to avoid,” he said.


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