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80-Year-Old Local Activist Assaulted By East Cleveland Council President in Nearby Home Depot

EAST CLEVELAND, OH – On June 17th, an incident at a Home Depot store ignited a wave of controversy and outrage in East Cleveland. Art McKoy, a revered social justice leader and founder of the organization 'Black on Black Crime,' alleged that he was assaulted by City Council President Anton Billings. The altercation has since raised significant questions about Billings' suitability for his role and has stirred a community already fraught with political tension.

Art McKoy, who has dedicated 50 years to reducing violence and promoting justice among minorities, went live on Facebook shortly after the alleged assault. Outside the VA Hospital, where he was treated for his injuries, McKoy, visibly distressed, stated, "He (Anton Billings) threatened me, he poked his fingers in my eyes... and then he punched me with his fist in my eye, giving me the condition you see right now."

The incident has not only spotlighted the personal plight of McKoy but has also resurrected questions about Billings' past conduct. Footage from 2019, showing Billings seemingly assaulting a woman at City Hall, has resurfaced. This, coupled with the fact that Billings was appointed rather than elected, has led many to question how he was deemed fit for the council presidency.

In response to the incident, McKoy's supporters organized to attend the June 18th council meeting to express their concerns. However, the meeting was abruptly cancelled. Despite this, supporters gathered outside City Hall, praising McKoy for his enduring commitment to the community. The meeting was rescheduled for June 25th, but once again, it was cancelled. Eric Brewer, the Clerk of Council and former East Cleveland Mayor, sent an email on June 21st condemning the supporters as 'rabble rousers' and warned that further disruptions could delay critical infrastructure projects. Brewer, who has a long history of public disagreements with McKoy, attempted to dissuade residents from attending the rescheduled meeting, stating, "If the next meeting of Council is obstructed, infrastructure legislation will not be passed and construction on sewer and street projects will not begin."

Despite Brewer's warnings, dozens of supporters showed up on June 25th, only to find that the meeting had been cancelled once again. According to City Hall staff, no council members showed up, suggesting that the cancellation was premeditated. Nevertheless, McKoy's supporters rallied outside City Hall, demanding action against Billings.

At the gathering, more than ten people, including McKoy's children, neighbors, and longtime supporters, spoke out. McKoy's young son addressed the crowd, saying, "How are we, the young people, supposed to straighten if the older people aren't straight themselves? You have to straighten up so that we can follow by your example. When you punched my father in his face, you not only hurt him, but you hurt his family."

One resident voiced a common sentiment: "That councilman has to be held accountable, that's why we're here." Another resident added, "We have a person who has been placed in a position that can actually do what needs to be done for the people, but yet he turns around and assaults the very person who's leading the charge for justice and equality."

Mary Seats, McKoy's daughter, flew in from Atlanta to support her father. She brought extensive documentation highlighting Billings' criminal history, which includes charges for abduction, aggravated menacing, criminal damaging, harassment, menacing by stalking, and impersonation of certain officers. Mary stated, "We are talking about someone with a long rap sheet. Let's talk about our City Council President for a second.... Abduction, aggravated menacing, criminal damaging in 2019; let's keep going. He has charges for harassment, menacing by stalking, impersonation of certain officers."

Art McKoy himself, in a talking head interview, expressed his resilience despite his injuries: "I am in pain, I have a broken nose, but I'm still standing, God is good."

Former City Council President Ernest Smith also spoke out, condemning the council's decision to cancel the meeting. "Actions speak louder than words. If nothing wrong was done, then stay here and face the people with a big smile on your face. Why run from the people?" Smith, who witnessed McKoy being threatened by Billings in a previous council meeting, added, "I love Art McKoy. Art McKoy has been there for the people. Billings said to McKoy, 'I better not catch you outside of City Hall.' Anton Billings is VERY dangerous."

As the community rallies around McKoy, the Mayors of East Cleveland and Cleveland Heights have been drawn into the controversy. The Mayor of Cleveland Heights has assured the McKoy family of a thorough investigation, emphasizing their commitment to justice. However, representatives at Home Depot have confirmed that there is no security footage of the incident as the aisle where it occurred is not monitored by cameras.

The situation remains tense, with residents determined to see accountability and justice served. Despite the political and personal battles, the community's support for Art McKoy stands as a testament to his enduring legacy and unwavering dedication to social justice in East Cleveland.

Additional local coverage on this matter can be found at the links below:


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