Columbus Protesters Call For Police Reforms: 'We Will Be Here Every Day'

Jun 1, 2020

One week after the death of George Floyd, protestors in Columbus are calling for police reforms while urging demonstrators to remain nonviolent.

A crowd gathered at the corner of Broad and High on Monday afternoon. Protestors stood on the sidewalk facing Columbus Police officers, who stood watching the middle of High Street. Cars passed by as drivers honked and raised their fists in support.

“We work, we own businesses, we have families here,” said the protest's leader to the crowd. “We need change. And the change must begin with us. Let us be the change that we want to see, right here in Columbus."

"So what do we want?” he asked the crowd. “Justice,” they shouted back.

Despite confusion over a Columbus Police message that traffic would be restricted into the city, streets remained open as protesters marched around the Ohio Statehouse and past the Ohio Theatre.

A message on the Ohio Threatre's marquee read, "The time is always right to do what is right – Martin Luther King Jr."

Protesters marched in front of the Franklin County Courthouse on June 1, 2020.
Credit Paige Pfleger / WOSU

On the steps of Columbus City Hall, activists called for greater oversight of the Columbus Police department, which has been criticized for its heavy-handed response to the demonstrations.

“As long as we stay peaceful, we will be here every day, until we get justice,” declared another protester on the megaphone. He says he's losing his voice – he's been out protesting since Thursday.

Officers stand guard at the Ohio Supreme Court, where "Black Lives Matter" has been written overtop the sign.
Credit Paige Pfleger / WOSU

Monday night, Columbus City Council voted to pass a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis, while several members have announced support for increased scrutiny of police use-of-force and enhanced de-escalation training.

Meanwhile, the Ohio State student government urged the university to cut ties with Columbus Police, referencing not just the protests but also the killings of Henry Green, Tyre King and Julius Tate, Jr.

Around the Statehouse, protesters encouraged each other to leave by 9:50 p.m., ahead of the city's 10 p.m. curfew, to avoid conflict with the police and keep things peaceful. That was their plan Sunday night, too, but Columbus Police arrived on the scene at 8 p.m. and dispersed the crowd using tear gas and wooden bullets.

Protesters in downtown Columbus on June 1, 2020.
Credit Paige Pfleger / WOSU

“I need you all to remember to look out for one another, we’re all we got,” protester Ben Willis told the crowd. “You understand that? And we’re stronger when we’re united.”

Mayor Andrew Ginther signed an executive order Monday declaring a state of emergency and extending the city's curfew indefinitely.

More protests are planned for Monday night.