Council President Hardin, Community Leaders Comment on Thursday’s Protests
On the evening of Friday, May 29, Columbus City Council called a press conference to comment on the events of last night’s protest. The general message from the conference was in support of protesting, however an urging for nonviolence continued throughout.
City Council President Shannon Hardin, Columbus Urban League Young Professionals President Nick Bankston, Letha Pugh, co-owner of Bake Me Happy and Pastor Michael Young of City of Grace all spoke at the conference.
Council President Hardin recognized and agreed with the frustrations that led to demonstrations on Thursday night by Columbus residents, but asked protestors to express themselves “through nonviolent means.” We need social disobedience, he said, but violence should not play a role.
“I’m angry. We’re all angry,” said Council President Hardin. “We need people to have the ability to protest safely. That’s a responsibility that’s both on our shoulders, the shoulders of the police and anyone that shows up to protest.”
He later spoke on the recommendations laid out by the Columbus Community Safety Advisory Commission earlier this year and Chief Thomas Quinlan’s efforts to move those recommendations forward as examples of ways policing is being addressed locally, but said more needs to be done.
Pugh said she wondered if her windows were broken during the protests. She said it is just “stuff” and that she could get it fixed, however she asked people to consider how those damages may be cause for hardship for some business owners right now, given the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I want us to protest, because we need to be heard. And if people are in the streets, my hope and prayers are that they are safe. And that the police also take responsibility for their actions as well,” she said.
“Think about the people behind the window, behind the door,” she continued. “They may be good people, they just happen to have a business in the path of a protest and a riot.”
On social media, people who attended yesterday’s protest claim demonstrations were largely nonviolent until police began to release mace and tear gas. When Columbus Underground inquired with Council President Hardin on the accounts he’s heard, he relayed back to his urging for peaceful interactions between all parties.
“What I was most concerned about last night and today and going forward over the weekend and into next week, is that people are able to peacefully protest and get home safely, both police and protesters,” he said.
When asked if he has spoken with Chief Quinlan about last night’s incidents, Hardin said the police chief has asked the department to “hold back.”
A smaller protest at Livingston Avenue and Lockbourne Road was much less intense and took place without violence on either side. When asked what the difference was, Hardin said that protest was more organized, with demonstrators coming together with a list of demands.
He said a peaceful protest ensures the goal of a “more equitable community” can be experienced by everybody.
“What I’m trying to do is make sure that peaceful protest is supported, is done in a safe way,” he said. “When we don’t keep it peaceful, then we lose the message.”