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Gimme a Brake! DSA CLE Free Brake Light Clinics
$1,600 raised
107% of $1.5k goal
27 contributors
63 Weeks running

Cleveland Democratic Socialists of America

With nearly 50,000 members and counting, DSA is America’s largest socialist organization, a unified coalition of local chapters working vigorously towards creating a more fair and equitable society for all through community activism and political pressure.  Cleveland’s chapter of the DSA is now in its third year of existence, and despite being a younger chapter has already helped to build working class power in Cleveland through such initiatives as its collaboration with Clevelanders for Public Transit, which successfully lobbied against a 2018 fare hike for Cleveland’s badly underserved RTA system and the election of one of our members, Tristan Rader, to the Lakewood City Council.


The Brake Light Clinic

In the interest of promoting community welfare and safety, we are putting together a drive-through style community service event to repair and/or replace the broken headlights and taillights of community members who attend the event for free.  The idea behind the event is to help members of underserved communities to avoid unnecessary interactions with the police for this minor violation, which can often lead to further unintended consequences under our legal system, which we believe is disproportionately punitive towards the poor and communities of color.  The clinic has been staged in cities across the country by other DSA chapters over the course of the last few years, and we are very excited to be bringing it to Cleveland.


You can read an interview here about the first Brake Light Clinic that took place in New Orleans:


Police Accountability in Cleveland

We feel that such a service could be especially potent in Cleveland, where a number of disturbing incidents involving the Cleveland Department of Police in the last several years have heightened public awareness of some abusive policies and practices within the department.  The most infamous incidents are the 2014 shooting of 12-year old Tamir Rice, who was killed on sight by a rookie officer while he was playing in a park with a toy gun, and the 2012 police chase of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, two homeless individuals who were chased for 22 minutes across the city by at one point 62 separate police vehicles.  When the two drivers finally pulled into Heritage Middle School in East Cleveland, thirteen officers fired a total of 137 rounds into their car, despite the initial reason for the chase being that Timothy Russell fled a traffic stop for a turn signal violation. While officers claimed to have heard gunshots coming from the car, no weapon was ever recovered from the vehicle.


These incidents and others spurred a 2014 investigation of the CDP by the Justice Department, which concluded after 21 months that there was reasonable cause to believe that the department “engages in a pattern or practice of using excessive force in violation of the 4th Amendment of the Constitution”, which protects American citizens against unreasonable search and seizure.  “Specifically, the DOJ found use of excessive, unconstitutional force, including: unnecessary use of deadly force, unnecessary use of less lethal retaliatory (revenge) force, excessive force against mentally ill persons, and the use of dangerous tactics that put officers and civilians at unnecessary risk.” The study also concluded that the number one cause for involuntary interaction with the police in Cleveland was through traffic stops.  


The conclusions of the DOJ’s investigation led to the Cleveland Consent Decree, a federal court order for the CDP to institute sweeping reforms of the department, to be evaluated 5 years after the issue of the decree on June 12th, 2015, with smaller deadlines included throughout the five year period.  


You can read about the DOJ’s investigation and the Consent Decree here:


While this was a definite step in the right direction and reforms have been implemented, Trump’s Justice Department is not the same one that issued this court order, and the overall culture of impunity and lack of accountability he has created for law enforcement has been clearly visible through the CDP’s cooperation with ICE as they institute Trump’s deeply inhumane “Zero Tolerance” immigration policy.  Two of the largest workplace raids in the country in over a decade took place in June n the Cleveland area: 114 workers arrested from Corso’s Flower and Garden Centers in Sandusky and Castalia, and another 146 workers raided from Freshmark meat processing plants in Salem, Massilon, and Canton.


More information on these raids can be found here:


The Fundraising campaign

In the face of these abusive practices by the CDP, we believe we are justified in helping community members to avoid unnecessary interactions with the police, and repairing brake lights is a simple (and cheap) way to do so!  However, as our chapter treasury is somewhat limited, we are seeking external funding in order to facilitate the clinic, and that’s where you come in! Funds raised will go to:

-   Insurance 
-  Tents 
- Brake light supplies 
- Hospitality (snacks, water, signs)
- Tools
- Media promotion
- Flyers

Any remaining money will be used for the next month's clinic!

We hope that we have made the case that your money will be well spent helping us to keep our community safe from unlawful search and seizure and police abuse.  We also hope that a successful Brake Light Clinic can be a useful experiment for attempting more ambitious community engagement and social service programs in the future as we attempt to fill in the holes left by an administration that seems intent on waging an economic war against its own people.

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