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Officials React to Weekend’s Protests

Taijuan Moorman Taijuan Moorman Officials React to Weekend’s ProtestsPhoto by Matt Ellis.
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Over the last several days, City officials have responded to the protests that took place starting Thursday, May 28 and continued over the weekend, the Columbus Division of Police’s handling of those protesters, and more.

City Council President Shannon Hardin and Pro Tem Elizabeth Brown have spoken on a renewed urgency for a Civilian Review Commission and implementation of the recommendations from the Community Safety Advisory Commission.

“Our nation has not risen to address the urgent problem of unequal policing in America,” said Pro Tem Brown. “Black families have been waiting too long; they cannot afford further patience.

“The last few days, people of all races have taken to the streets to peacefully protest inequality and injustice and were often met with heavy-handed aggression by police. This is not how we reach peace. We deliver peace by working for justice.”

In a statement on Saturday, May 30, Council President Shannon Hardin said, “I saw with my own eyes that 99 percent of protesters were just trying to make their voices heard, while some individuals in the crowd were attempting to take advantage of the situation. I also saw police going too far, and that’s unacceptable. The people have spoken, and I hear you. The time for commissions and studies is over. The time to institute real police reform is now.”

Council President Hardin, along with Congresswoman Joyce Beatty and County Commissioner Kevin Boyce, was pepper sprayed by Columbus police on Saturday, as now infamously captured by The Columbus Dispatch.

Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein asked Columbus residents to hold him and city leadership accountable in reforming the city’s “culture of justice.”

“As the chief legal counsel for the City of Columbus, I soon will have concrete calls for action to address our City’s handling of this weekend’s protests and reform policies to move the city forward, including the swift implementation of many recommendations made by Matrix Consulting and our citizen-led police review commission,” he said.

“We have not listened or acted with the urgency our communities of color deserve,” he continued. “Perhaps the first, best step towards building legitimate trust is owning our shortcomings, our mistakes and our ability to use positions of public trust to ensure equitable justice for all.”

Former Mayor Michael B. Coleman also addressed the protests in a statement, saying protests that aren’t peaceful would be “missing the moment” and “hurting the cause.”

“Today I feel the need to speak out as I see our city experiencing deep pain and anger. I feel that pain and anger too – as a Black man, one who loves the City of Columbus, and as a proud father of three Black children,” said Mayor Coleman. “Protest is patriotic. We must listen to those who are assembling to express their justifiable rage and anguish, even — and especially — when it makes us uncomfortable. However, acts of protest must be peaceful.”

He added, “There is a new generation lifting its voice, a voice that must be heard, and to dismiss it would be at our own peril. It is the next generation of young leaders who will blaze a path toward justice with their ideas and their passion.”

On Saturday, May 30, Mayor Andrew Ginther implemented a curfew on the City of Columbus indefinitely, on the same day Ohio Governor Mike DeWine activated the Ohio National Guard.

He also gave a statement:

“I understand the anger and frustration that has led to these protests – and I share them. Racism, discrimination and injustice have led us to this moment. I want to assure our residents we are making real change and are committed to confronting racism where we see it,” said Mayor Ginther. “But at this moment some people are intent on causing chaos and destruction, not on creating positive change in our community and threaten to drown out the voice of demanding justice and our collective safety.”

See photos from the weekend’s protests here, here and here.

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