Protest in downtown Columbus broken up after demonstrators breach Ohio Statehouse

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Crowds gathered across Columbus Thursday evening to protest police brutality after the death of 46-year-old George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis police custody on Monday.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine held a news conference Friday to talk about Floyd’s death and the protests in downtown Columbus on Thursday night.  

“While Fran and I feel sorrow and disgust at what we saw, we cannot fully comprehend or imagine what an African American family must feel,” DeWine said. “His death impacts all of us. We have a responsibility to each other . . . regardless of race, to stand up and speak out and say ‘We won’t tolerate conduct like this.'”

Floyd was restrained by officer Derek Chauvin, who dug his knee into Floyd’s neck. Chauvin was arrested Friday and charged with third degree murder and manslaughter.

“This officer’s conduct violated every principle of human decency, but it also violated any kind of basic police training,” DeWine said.

Peaceful protests in Columbus turned violent when some involved began throwing objects at police officers. Police responded by using tear gas to push the crowd back. The crowd let up, but an hour later the protest escalated when demonstrators smashed windows at the Ohio Statehouse while some went inside the building.

“Protests expressing outrage are not only understandable, they are appropriate,” DeWine said. “Ohioans should speak out against wrongdoing. Ohioans should speak out for change . . . I ask my fellow Ohio citizens today as you gather in protest in the coming days throughout Ohio, regardless of the issue, please do so peacefully. We must not fight violence with more violence.”

SWAT arrived on the scene soon after the Statehouse break-in. Officers used a loudspeaker to announce an emergency was declared in the area, meaning any protesters who refused to leave would be arrested.

“The Columbus Police officers who responded to the Statehouse area yesterday put their own lives at risk and did an excellent job,” DeWine said. “The vast majority, almost all police officers do a good job. But we have a moral obligation to make sure every officer, all 35,000, have the proper training.”

Here’s what the scene looked like shortly after 11:00 p.m. Thursday night:

Protests began peacefully on Thursday evening around 8:00 p.m. The video below shows the scene at the intersection of Broad St. and High St. around 9:00 p.m.

The protestors in Columbus chanted, “Black Lives Matter” and “Say His Name” in reference to Floyd and “I Can’t Breathe” in reference to the 2014 death of Eric Garner. Garner was placed in a choke hold during an arrest and officer Daniel Pantaleo kept him in the choke hold while Garner told the officers “I can’t breathe” several times.

A grand jury decided to not indict Pantaleo.

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin both responded to the protests on Twitter urging those involved to protest peacefully.

Protesters began throwing objects at police officers around 9:45 p.m.

15 minutes later, officers moved their line up while using tear gas to push the crowd back. The crowd began dispersing around 10:20 p.m. but picked back up in the next hour. Here’s what the scene looked like at 11:15 p.m. in Columbus:

By 2 a.m. Friday, several streets downtown were still blocked. Crowds seemed to be dispersed, though some people were still out but in much smaller groups.

Columbus police say several businesses were damaged during the protests, and multiple people were detained.

“It’s OK, to exercise your amendment rights and your freedom of speech, and we encourage that. It’s OK to do that. However, it is not acceptable to exercise those amendment rights and then turn to criminal actions such as criminal damaging and vandalism,” said Sgt. James Fuqua with the Columbus Division of Police.

“We understand people are hurt and outraged.  Deputies will uphold the public’s right to protest peacefully, but acts of violence and criminal damaging won’t be tolerated.   I want to be clear the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office is listening.  In recent years, we have established a Community Advisory Board that serves as a liaison between the public and law enforcement, and our deputies routinely attend block watch and community meetings, and town hall forums.  The FCSO is committed to hearing the concerns, frustrations, fears, and needs of the people we have sworn to protect and serve.   It is my sincere hope that the sheriff’s office will continue to play a meaningful role in building a bridge of trust, and promoting healing,” Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin released in a statement.

According to a release from State House officials, the following damage was reported after the protests:

Windows: 28 Statehouse window panes shattered along the West and South sides of the Statehouse, as well as damage to the wood frames.

·         Damage to the State St. door

·         Damage to the West Rotunda doors

Exterior

  • West Plaza
    • 5 Pole Lamps
  • North Plaza
    • No Damage
  • East Plaza
    • Fire damage to flags in flower beds
    • Flower bed damage from fire
  • South Plaza
    • Bench, SE Node (Granite and bench damaged)

There was no damage to the Atrium or Senate Building. Many of the trash cans on the exterior were dumped and thrown.  Some cans missing, lids missing, cans dented. 

The protest did not reach the level of escalation experienced in Minneapolis on Wednesday and Thursday, which included rioting, looting and fires set across the city including one inside the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct.

Louisville protests also became violent. At least seven people were shot as protesters turned out to demand justice for Breonna Taylor, a black woman fatally shot by police in her home in March.

Denver protests also turned violent Thursday as authorities say shots were fired, protesters blocked traffic and smashed vehicle windows during a demonstration.

The other three officers involved in Floyd’s arrest have since been fired.

“I’ve wrestled with, more than anything else over the last 36 hours, one fundamental question: Why is the man who killed George Floyd not in jail?” said Frey.

Governor DeWine reflected on Ohio’s police training and made this promise during his Friday press conference.

“My committment today to citizens of Ohio is that we will do more,” DeWine said. “I will work with the leaders in the General Assembly, that I will work with Attorney General David Yost, and we will continue down this path and do more in this area.”

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