June 2020

City leaders propose change in policing a month after protests began in downtown Columbus

Courtesy of ABC6
June 28, 2020

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX/WTTE) — Protests began in downtown Columbus on May 28, just days after the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. Floyd gasped for breath during a Monday arrest in which an officer kneeled on his neck for almost eight minutes.

One month later, ABC6/FOX28 examines how downtown demonstrations have led city officials to reconsider the way police work is done in Columbus. Below is a timeline of events.

May 28
Protests were peaceful in the early evening hours of May 28, but soon turned destructive. Several businesses in the downtown area, and the Ohio Statehouse all suffered damage.

“Black Lives Matter” chants could be heard as a group of about 200 protesters made their way down East Long Street near Fourth Street early that evening.

The largest crowd gathered at High and Broad Streets, where a large police presence was also on hand and some kind of agent, possibly tear gas, was used multiple times to break up some crowds.

Chants of “we can’t breathe,” “no justice, no peace,” and “hands up, don’t shoot,” could be heard through the downtown area.

Some protesters then made their way onto the Statehouse lawn and steps. That’s when some protesters broke windows in the Ohio Statehouse, and a few were able to make their way inside the building.

Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin said the protests are a result of a culmination of fear, hurt and pain.

“As a young African American growing up in this city, it is real,” Hardin said. “What we have seen in the last week are just representations of things that we felt for a long time.”

Hardin said protesting is a natural expression of one’s feelings.

“Peaceful protest is fine, peaceful protest is ok,” Hardin said. “We just have to remember that we are Columbus, we are one Columbus, and we will have to come together and find solutions.”

May 29
Several downtown business owners woke up on the morning of Friday, May 29 to news of thousands of dollars in damages following protests the night before.

The Ohio Theatre was one of the buildings damaged. The Columbus Association for the Performing Arts, a nonprofit organization, said an unofficial estimate puts the damage at $15,000.

GALLERY: Downtown Columbus, Ohio Statehouse damage from protests
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Restaurants such as Latitude 41 and Poke Bros also showed extensive storefront damage.

Crews also had to board up the shattered entrance to the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.

The head of the Fraternal Order of Police claims an appropriate response to overnight riots in Columbus was delayed Thursday, which prompted further violence against police and destruction to property.

“The officers are not going to stand there and get assaulted. We should not be doing that,” said FOP President Keith Ferrell who called the Columbus Police Chief about his concerns.

That same day Columbus community leaders called for both protesters and police to remain peaceful. Ohio Governor DeWine echoed the same message.

Columbus Police Chief Thomas Quinlan posted a video on his official Twitter account, calling for peaceful protests.

“Police encourage and embrace peaceful protests and will help facilitate the lawful exercise of those rights,” Quinlan said

“We believe in peaceful protest, we want that to happen,” said Andrew Ginther (D), Columbus mayor. “We just don’t want the destruction of property, the looting, and those things.”

Columbus police said five people were arrested on the night of May 29, and five officers were injured.

That night, Ohio State basketball player Seth Towns was briefly detained by Columbus Police while taking part in a protest downtown. Towns, a Northland graduate, was released and not arrested.

Ohio State basketball forward Seth Towns was briefly detained by Columbus Police on the night of Friday, May 29, 2020. (WSYX/WTTE)

May 30
On the third day of protests, the Columbus Division of Police declared an emergency in the downtown area as protesting continued for a third day. Demonstrators filled the streets of downtown Columbus chanting “black lives matter,” “I can’t breathe,” and “George Floyd.” Congresswoman Joyce Beatty and Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin were pepper sprayed during protests.

“Too much force is not the answer to this,” Beatty said.

Later that day, Governor Mike DeWine and Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther held a joint press conference to address the recent violence in downtown Columbus. DeWine activated the Ohio National Guard to assist with protests in downtown Columbus and Cleveland.

“I am activating our National Guard to drive out hate and violence and to instill order. This is about the safety of our communities – our neighbors, our families, and our friends. It is about protecting from unnecessary destruction the small businesses that our fellow Ohioans have worked so hard to create. It is also about protecting the First Amendment and creating the environment for peaceful protests so that people can be heard, so that voices are not stifled, so that justice can prevail, and so that love, kindness, compassion, and peace can triumph over hate and violence,” said DeWine.

Ginther then issued an indefinite citywide curfew for Columbus from 10 pm to 6 am. The mayor warned that violators may be arrested.

“We are implementing a city-wide curfew from 10 6 a.m. beginning tonight. We respect, value and welcome the right to protest. This curfew is not intended to stifle peaceful protest but to protect our people,” said Ginther.

Armored vehicles from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office were seen that night clearing the streets of downtown Columbus. Additionally, police closed all streets downtown.

May 31
The Columbus Division of Police said the citywide curfew, announced the day before, made a big impact.

After days of unrest and protests in downtown Columbus, police spent most of Sunday assessing the damage.

“It was absolutely a success,” said Columbus Police Sgt. James Fuqua. “We could see a dramatic change tonight compared to the past couple of nights. People got the message.”

Officers still received several reports of vandalism.

Columbus Fire crews also spent most of the morning battling flames at the Residences at Topiary Park. Damage to this apartment building, still under construction, was estimated at $25 million and later determined to be arson.

June 1
Mayor Ginther called racism a “public health crisis in Columbus.”

That same day, the Columbus Urban League called for a blackout protest, asking people to voluntarily call off work. The peaceful protest tactic is meant to get their message across for racial justice.

“I stand with our young professionals and their call for a ‘Black Out’ day,” said Columbus Urban League President Stephanie Hightower. “I implore our employers and business leaders to lean in and lift up our families, white, black and brown.”

Throughout downtown Columbus and the Short North, a neighboring community, artists turned boarded up windows into pieces of art in hopes to create social change.

In the afternoon, Chief Quinlan and Mayor Ginther walked with protesters throughout the downtown area.

Protests remained largely peaceful in the downtown area throughout the afternoon.

At night, Ohio State student reporters from The Lantern were pepper sprayed by Columbus Police. Officers were telling them it was past the city’s curfew. Media members are among those exempt from the curfew.

June 2
As protests continued in downtown Columbus, demonstrations began to spill over into Central Ohio’s suburban communities, including Hilliard.

As protests continue across the country one week after the death of George Floyd, a peaceful protest was held the night of Monday, June 1, 2020, in Hilliard. (WSYX/WTTE )

The Columbus Division of Police said that the pepper spraying of Ohio State student journalists was under review.

Columbus-area Condado Tacos closed after workers refused to fill an order for the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Employees were asked to make a 500 taco order for the law enforcement agency. Several employees refused and walked out.

June 3
Columbus City Attorney, along with community leaders, announced police reform recommendations for the city. Klein wants an outside review of how Columbus Police performed their duties during the first six days of protesting the death of George Floyd.

“Any department that has been involved in the city of Columbus in the past six days, should be evaluated and we should be praised for what we’ve done right and learn from what we’ve done wrong and change those things immediately before we move forward,” Klein said.

As the city reached a week straight of protests, gatherings were punctuated by volunteer clean-up crews and continued help from those who hydrated protesters and facilitated the calm.

Columbus Public Health confirmed that an individual with coronavirus attended demonstrations downtown.

Protesters gathered outside the home of Mayor Ginther.

Following a peaceful protest in Hilliard the day before, demonstrators marched in Upper Arlington and Westerville to show support for Black Lives Matter.

In support of protests and change, art continued to bloom in the Short North.

Condado Tacos said they’ll continue to serve everyone, including law enforcement. The news came one day after employees walked out and refused to fill an order for the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

On Tuesday, all Columbus-area Condado Tacos locations closed after employees refused to fill an order for Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers. (WSYX/WTTE)

June 4
Crowds outside the Ohio Statehouse declined during the daytime hours.

Governor Mike DeWine canceled his coronavirus press briefing, “out of respect” for George Floyd’s memorial service. DeWine also requested a statewide moment of silence in remembrance of Floyd.

The City of Columbus announced that they are reviewing more than 500 complaints that have been sent to the mayor’s office alleging mistreatment by Columbus police during downtown protests.

Dozens of community members took part in a peaceful protest in Hilliard.

June 5
Governor Mike DeWine announced that an Ohio National Guardsman has been removed from the mission in Washington D.C. after the FBI discovered he expressed white supremacist ideology online.

At Trinity Baptist Church, leaders from the community and the local chapter of NAACP said their top priority is to make sure an independent civilian review board is formed for fatal and excessive force police incidents.

Staff at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center knelt in support of Black Lives Matter. It was a part of the #WhiteCoatsForBlackLives movement on social media.

Hundreds of Ohio State Wexner Medical Center faculty and staff joined students from Ohio State’s College of Medicine to kneel in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, in honor of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others who have suffered from racial injustice. (Courtesy: Ohio State Wexner Medical Center)

Former Buckeyes, including former Ohio State basketball players Greg Oden and Rick Smith, marched in support of Black Lives Matter.

“I’m a proud Buckeye. We all are and to see the injustice an unfair treatment of African Americans, we can’t stay silent anymore,” said Oden.

An Upper Arlington teenager offered 100 hot meals to Columbus Police officers every night during the protests.

Ohio University created a George Floyd Memorial Scholarship Fund.

June 6
As demonstrations continued for the 10th consecutive day in Columbus, Mayor Ginther rescinded the curfew. The curfew change came just hours after a Central Ohio attorney filed suit against the city of Columbus and called Mayor Ginther’s curfew unconstitutional.

That same day a group of Columbus voters filed a petition to recall Mayor Ginther.

Some Northstar Cafe employees participated in a “walkout,” boycotting the restaurant after the staff wanted to suspend the 50% discount for law enforcement, and management did not suspend the discount.

We Stand 614 held a peaceful rally on Hamilton Avenue.

June 7
Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith announced his support for Black Lives Matter.

An 11-year-old girl in Blacklick organized a Black Lives Matter protest for children.

June 8
Downtown Columbus protesters called for reform and reallocation of funds for the Columbus Division of Police.

“What defunding police technically is, is a redistribution and reallocation of funds into programs that would help uplift communities, particularly disadvantage communities,” said Chenelle Jones Ph.D. and Franklin University professor, an expert on public safety. Jones also serves on the Columbus Safety Advisory Commission.

Several City of Columbus leaders called for charges to be dropped against some protesters.

Of the 28 people arrested in Columbus for curfew violations, the city attorney has dropped 19 cases.

Volunteers scrubbed graffiti, profanity from city streets following downtown Columbus protests.

Protesters called for Columbus City Schools to cut ties with the Columbus Division of Police.

June 9 – June 19
Governor DeWine announced on June 9th that he’s working towards “meaningful law enforcement” in Ohio. He announced that he’s directed the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board to begin developing a new minimum standard on law enforcement response to protests.

“Through this standard, we want our peaceful demonstrators to feel safe when asserting their First Amendment rights and for the public to be protected against violence and destruction of their property,” DeWine said.

That same day, Columbus police shared with ABC6/FOX28 that they spent an estimated $1.9 million on overtime to cover the downtown protests. Additionally, calls from The Ohio State University campus came on June 10th, for the university to cut ties with the Columbus Division of Police.

On June 12th, Columbus Police gave investigations of fatal-police involved incidents to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) for transparency.

“It is not that existing officers that do these things aren’t good at what they do. Or that we are questioning their integrity in any way. But it is important that the people in the community feel that it was independently, fairly, and fully investigated,” said AG Dave Yost.

Small protests sparked conversations on racism between suburban communities and police.

One of the biggest pieces of change came June 16th, when Mayor Ginther issued an order to stop the police deployment of tear gas during peaceful protests. “Tear gas and pepper spray used indiscriminately with peaceful protesters is not acceptable,” Mayor Ginther said.

Governor DeWine and Attorney General Yost held a joint news briefing on June 17th to discuss new efforts for law enforcement reform in Ohio. DeWine called for the creation of a law enforcement oversight and accountability board. At that briefing, DeWine announced that he has instructed the Ohio State Highway Patrol to get body cameras.

“Simply put, law enforcement agencies should not be investigating themselves,” DeWine said. “Even if they do a great job, there is still the appearance of impropriety. There is the appearance that people may not trust the outcome.”

On the evening of June 18th, protesters painted red handprints on the steps and walls of the Ohio Statehouse. They also painted “hands up, don’t shoot” on one of the columns at the statehouse.

June 20 – June 28
Governor DeWine addressed protest-related vandalism that left the Ohio Statehouse covered in red paint and handprints. DeWine said that will not be tolerated.

“There are…in Columbus, maybe 150-200 people who are clearly there for violence, and that violence will not be tolerated,” DeWine said. “There is a line; they crossed that line…the demonstrations are a positive thing, but when you reach the point of violence, that is simply not tolerated.”

Mayor Ginther held a community address on the afternoon of June 24th to address police reform. Ginther said he’s vowing to weed out bad cops and urging good cops to join him.

“To our police officers. Many of you entered this profession to protect and serve. Many of you worked tirelessly every day to do just that and to build meaningful relationships with our residents. If you see other officers using excessive or outdated training modules, intervene immediately on behalf of the people of Columbus,” Ginther said.

On June 25th, Columbus City Council members laid out proposals as part of short and long term goals for changes in what it wants the future of policing to look like.

“The current system is not working, and we need to develop something better, together,” said Council President Shannon Hardin.

Council members outlined four proposals they’d like to talk about with the community and vote on in the coming weeks.

“We never want the presence of police officers in our community to feel to residents as if we are at war,” said Council President Pro Tempore Elizabeth Brown.

Following a meeting with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) President Keith Ferrell, Mayor Ginther said he is disappointed in the FOP’s lack of commitment to police reforms.

“Today I met with Keith Ferrell to talk about our community’s clear calls for change,” Ginther said. “I am disappointed in the FOP’s lack of commitment to the reforms we need at the Columbus Division of Police. They say they are prepared to listen, but we’ve heard that for far too long. The time for listening is over. The time for action is now. Despite the FOP continuing to put up barriers to our progress, we are moving forward with our plan of reform. I encourage Columbus residents to join us in calling on the FOP to get serious about change – and to hold them accountable if they ignore our community.”

On June 27th, hundreds of people gathered on the grounds of Columbus City Hall to call for Mayor Ginther and Chief Quinlan to resign.

ABC6/FOX28 will continue to follow news related to downtown demonstrations, and police reform in Columbus.

By Sarah Wynn

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