CLEVELAND (AP) — Work began Wednesday on dismantling a gazebo outside a Cleveland recreation center where a 12-year-old black boy was fatally shot by a white policeman in preparation for it to be reassembled outside a Chicago arts organization.
The gazebo has become a national symbol in the outcry over police shootings of black men and boys. The shooting victim, Tamir Rice, had been playing with a pellet gun. He was shot in November 2014 within two seconds of a police cruiser skidding to a stop near him.
The director of programs for the Rebuild Foundation, Amy Schachman, said she would remain in Cleveland until the dismantling of the gazebo is completed next week. Plans call for the gazebo to be reassembled outside an arts gallery and community space called Stony Island Arts Bank.
"It's important that it be as intact as possible," Schachman said.
Work crews on Wednesday scraped from the gazebo roof shingles that Schachman said won't be reused but will be preserved. The wooden planks and trusses from which the roof was built will be numbered and dismantled.
City resident Ann Pallotta was at the Cudell Recreation Center on Wednesday morning waiting for the work to begin. She said she and children from the neighborhood planted next to the gazebo a butterfly garden intended to help the children heal. She said the children had a "jumbled bunch of emotions" as they grieved for their friend.
Pallotta said she finds the gazebo distasteful and hoped the space can be "rehabilitated" and a proper memorial can be created.
"Not only was it the scene of a horrible murder, it's an uninviting space," she said.
Elham Baddour, who lives a few blocks from the recreation center, said she had mixed emotions about what should be done with the gazebo. She said Tamir played basketball with her grandson at her home and a family photo that shows him smiling is "exactly who he was."
"The gazebo didn't kill him," Baddour said. "It's nice to have. But if it makes his mother feel better, I'm for it."
Tamir's mother, Samaria Rice, initially asked the city to demolish the gazebo during talks to settle a lawsuit that resulted in the city agreeing to pay $6 million. This summer, she agreed to allow the gazebo to be preserved.
The policeman and his partner were cleared of criminal wrongdoing in Tamir's death.
This story has been corrected to show the recreation center is on Cleveland's west side, not east side.