Like many Clevelanders, Jacqueline Greene is catching her breath a little bit after the conclusion of the RNC, but just for a moment.
As a coordinator for the National Lawyer's Guild Ohio chapter, Greene worked through the convention, and will continue working beyond, to help ensure that civil rights remain protected as they intersect with politics and police. When it came to the RNC, there were a few dozen arrests, far fewer than many had expected, but there was plenty to be concerned about nonetheless.
"Since 1968, the reason we're there, at large-scale political events like the RNC, is because very frequently there are massive civil rights violations occurring," she says. "What was interesting here was that the number of protestors seemed to have been lower than other recent nominating conventions, however, we saw a militarized police presence, a number of different agencies involved, and the types of weaponry they were carrying was a show of force. They engaged pretty strongly with the crowd and it became evident that there was some preemptive law enforcement going on -- there were FBI door knocks before and during the event, there was an intimidation factor that played into the presence of protestors. It's a chilling effect. While many people applauded the city for making it through the week relatively unscathed, we were still concerned at what we saw was a successful attempt to chill protests."
But enough about the RNC. Greene's role there was laudable and necessary, but so too is her work with the firm of Friedman & Gilbert, where she and the team work on correctional and institutional misconduct cases that cut right to the heart of some of Cleveland's longstanding problems. For instance, she was on the team that represented the family of Kenny Smith in their civil case against the city of Cleveland and police for Smith's wrongful death at the hands of an officer. (The family was awarded a $5.5 million judgment by a jury, all this despite Prosecutor Tim McGinty finding the shooting to be justified.) They also work on policy issues stemming from the consent decree with the Department of Justice.
It's the sort of work that brought Greene, a Northeast Ohio native, back to Cleveland in 2014. After graduating law school in 2011, she worked in London at the International Bar Association, spent a few months in Cambodia working on the criminal defense team for Nuon Chea (a.k.a. Brother Number Two, one-time second in command to Pol Pot) -- "If you deny rights to those seen as by society as the worst of the worst, that means those rights can be denied to anyone" -- and worked in D.C. at the American Bar Association, among other things. But on a trip back to Cleveland she met up with noted civil rights lawyer Terry Gilbert and soon got a job offer to work at his firm.
"When I was younger, I did not intend on sticking around the Greater Cleveland area," she says. "Eventually I came to the realization that if I really wanted to be engaged in the work in a meaningful way, I needed to be at home, where I had an intimate understanding of the area and thought the work was of value. I feel really fortunate to do my job with people are passionate and compassionate at the same time. And I feel really fortunate to be in a place where the work with the people in the city makes a difference in community interests, whether individually or in a larger context."
Greene, who's lived on the near west side off and on since 2009, otherwise enjoys the hobbies many Clevelanders do -- exploring the growing food and drink scene, attending gallery openings -- but can also be found at monthly salsa dances around the city. "It's a very social dance," she says. "You meet new people, and they teach you a little something you didn't know." — Vince Grzegorek
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