Columbus Gears Up for Armed Protests This Weekend
Updated 01/15/2021: This article has been updated to include information on City of Columbus Downtown campus closures.
Coming just over a week after the insurrection that took place at the U.S. Capitol, and the FBI warning of more armed, pro-Trump protests planned in all 50 states ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, local and state officials are gearing up for whatever comes their way at Ohio’s Statehouse.
In a press conference with Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and Columbus Police Chief Thomas Quinlan appeared with other law enforcement officials on Thursday, Jan. 14 to brief the press on how they will be preparing for the protests.
The governor has officially mobilized the Ohio National Guard in Downtown Columbus, as well as other cities across the state if necessary, in order to assist the Columbus Police Department and Ohio State Highway Patrol in a “unified command force” in Downtown Columbus, starting Saturday.
At the request of the federal government, the governor said, the state will also be sending around 1000 specially-trained Ohio Guard officers to Washington D.C. to join a national effort of assisting in the Capitol area.
The governor emphasized protecting peaceful protestors but said there are people in the country who want to turn those protests into “opportunities for violence,” adding that their violence would not be tolerated in Ohio or anywhere.
For those Downtown in the next several days, they will notice safety protocols such as fencing and a “significant presence” of law enforcement.
On Friday, the City of Columbus announced the city’s Downtown campus would also be closed through Wednesday, including City Hall, the Michael B. Coleman Government Center, and the Beacon Building. City employees who regularly work in these buildings have been asked to work remotely if possible.
All other city facilities will remain open on Tuesday and Wednesday.
This is in tandem with the governor announcing that the Statehouse and other government buildings Downtown will be closed through Wednesday for safety precautions as well.
Responding to a question from a reporter, the governor said one thing the state has taken from last week’s insurgence is that it is important to have enough force present from the beginning.
The governor suggested he was privy to information that would suggest a greater concern than demonstrations that typically take place at the Statehouse. However, Colonel Richard Fambro of the State Highway Patrol said law enforcement has “no idea” how many people to expect this weekend.
Mayor Ginther during the conference urged people to avoid planned protests this weekend and leading up to the inauguration and to not give in to a confrontation. He said that this was not a partisan concern and that he and the governor “stand together” on the issue.
“It is our responsibility as Americans and elected leaders to protect the safety of our residents and defend our city, state, and nation against those who seek to tear it down,” he said. “Hate has no place in Columbus, Ohio, or these United States of America.”
The ACLU of Ohio has also warned people via social media that several credible threats of violence against members of the transgender community have been made, according to the organization Trans Ohio, as part of the Pro-Trump events scheduled in Columbus. They urged community members to stay away from the Statehouse and the Downtown Columbus area as well, unless necessary.