Columbus Police, City Council Under Fire at Event with Shaun King
In the ‘Opportunity City’ of the Midwest, the term “change starts local” has taken on a new meaning.
Last Saturday night, an audience of hundreds of Columbus residents gathered to hear speakers address police brutality and learn what everyday residents can do to change the culture of violence that plagues our police force. The event was held in part to expose City Hall’s history of inaction on issues of police violence, and to share information about the influence that wealthy developers have on local Democratic campaigns.
Yes We Can City Council candidate Jasmine Ayres and School Board candidate Erin Upchurch joined Our Revolution President Sen. Nina Turner and civil rights activist Shaun King, two of the nation’s leading voices in the fight for racial and economic justice.
Panelists also included Adrienne Hood, a Columbus activist whose son was shot and killed by plainclothes officers in June 2016.
The two high-profile social justice advocates came to Columbus to publicly announce their support for the Yes We Can slate of candidates for Columbus City Council and Columbus School Board. Both King and Turner encouraged audience members to vote Jasmine Ayres and Will Petrik onto Columbus City Council, and Erin Upchurch, Amy Harkins and Abby Vaile onto Columbus School Board in the November 7 election.
“It’s time to change the status quo in Columbus,” Turner said.
Ayres, Petrik, Upchurch, Harkins and Vaile are backed by progressive political group Yes We Can Columbus, an affiliate of the Working Families Party. Candidates on the Yes We Can slate are running as independent, grassroots-funded Democrats against the local incumbents.
Their campaign message is one that has resonated with working class voters citywide: Columbus neighborhoods deserve safer streets, a stronger voice and a higher quality of life.
Together, King and Turner told the audience that Columbus voters are in a unique position to transform the city. Because Democratic incumbents in cities nationwide commonly receive large corporate-funded campaign contributions that provide millions in spending money, their campaigns often go unchallenged. But with independent Democratic candidates offering an alternative to the current status quo, Columbus has entered the national narrative as a city looking to give a better deal to low-income neighborhoods and working families – with groups of activists rallying to ‘get big money out of politics.’
“Everyone deserves to benefit from the growth and development happening in Columbus,” said City Council candidate Jasmine Ayres. “We need to put our foot down as a city and ensure that our neighborhoods have access to good-paying jobs, affordable housing and stronger public schools no matter their zip code.”
Columbus has drawn increasing national attention for the Columbus Police Department’s excessive use of force against communities of color, and has become the focus of increasing public outcry. Publicized cases over the past two years include the of 13-year-old Ty’re King, Hood’s own son Henry Green, Chris Wade, Jaron Thomas and Kareem Jones – as well as the arrest of four peaceful black queer and trans protestors during Columbus’ Pride Parade.
“If a police officer chooses violence over de-escalation once, that’s one bad apple,” said King. “But when it happens over and over again, and black men are almost always the victims, then that’s a barrel of bad apples – and it’s failure of City Hall issue to stand up for its people and prove that black lives matter.”
King went on to say that, as an international advocate against police brutality and the over-policing of black and brown neighborhoods, he has seen similar cases across the country. The author and activist urged audience members to take action by getting involved with organizations like Yes We Can Columbus and by going to the polls on November 7:
“You have so much power – not just through your votes, but through your pressure,” King said.
During a Q&A section, audience members asked speakers questions on a range of local issues, including affordable housing, tax abatement incentives and minimum wage. Turner closed out the rally by urging all in attendance to commit to getting involved in local politics.