TWDC president calls Tremont arsons hate crimes
by Chuck Hoven

(Plain Press, September 2007) An August 30th vigil will be held on W. 12th Street to demonstrate support for Rogina Weakley and family, victims of a recent hate crime. Sammy Catania, President of the Board of Trustees of Tremont West Development Corporation, announced the upcoming vigil at the organization’s August 16th Board of Trustees meeting. Catania said he had met with the Weakley family and said, “It is a good family. They are working people. The kids are in school and are good students.” Catania said, “This is a racial hate crime that has happened.”

A Plain Dealer article on August 15th described two arsons on W. 12th Street that targeted African American families: the July 31st arson of the Weakley’s house, and a garage set fire on the same street on June 30th.  Both arsons occurred about 4 a.m. According to the Plain Dealer article, racist graffiti was reportedly painted on the garage only days before the first fire.

Following the two fires, residents of the Holmden Buhrer Rowley and Mentor Castle Clark Block Clubs organized a fundraiser on August 11th at Clark Bar to assist the families.

Catania said he had received about 50 emails concerning the arsons. He said people in the neighborhood are appalled at what has happened. He urged board members to attend the vigil. He said there would be a potluck and a viewing of the Public Broadcasting System’s documentary Not in Our Neighborhood.

Catania reported that the Weakley family had insurance on the house. He said the family is “in absolute terror now.” He urged support for the family and hoped they would stay in the neighborhood. The board passed a resolution offering the family a free month of rent in a rental unit managed by TWDC in the neighborhood.

Catania said “we have a good idea who the perpetrators are. They will be sent away for a long time.” He said a message must be sent that hate crimes “will not be tolerated in any way, shape or form.”  

Catania said Councilman Joe Cimperman, Cleveland Mediation Center, the new Second District Commander, the NAACP and the FBI have all committed resources to address the situation.

The two arsons described above may not be the only ones aimed at African American families that have occurred recently. Residents writing online on say another African American family on Thurman Avenue recently lost their home to an arson fire.

Within the past year a resident also reported to the Plain Press that he had been beaten by some youths in dark clothing with shaved heads outside the former Church nightclub on W. 14th and Auburn Avenue. An African American resident also reported to the Plain Press racial slurs aimed at him while dining at local establishments.


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