Downtown Columbus Cleans Up After Weekend Of George Floyd Protests

Jun 1, 2020

As the sun crept over downtown Columbus on Monday morning, residents and workers again found themselves cleaning up after a day of protests.

Surrounding the Ohio Statehouse, graffiti is scrawled on hastily boarded-up storefronts. Some windows are broken, others are spared, with no apparent rhyme or reason. On Gay Street, Willie Ramey looks up from sweeping broken glass and debris.

“Peaceful protests, huh?” Ramey says wryly.

Ramey works for the building’s owner. Cracks spiderweb the glass in every one of the doors, and Ramey says there are plenty more broken windows behind the plywood.

“We have dozens of them,” he says. “We helped the other building owners out, we gave them the plywood and the 2x4s to try to prevent them from going in, doing any more damage than they’ve already done.”

Gary McConnell owns Café Phoenix down the street. He was in West Virginia over the weekend celebrating his wife’s birthday.

“You couldn’t do nothing about it,” he says with a lilting accent. “You’re better off away from the situation than being involved in it. What could you do if you were here?”

Gary McConnell owns Café Phoenix in downtown Columbus. He says that damage from the protests is another setback to his business.
Credit Nick Evans / WOSU

McConnell says boarding up is another setback after the COVID-19 pandemic cut his business by 80%.

“Friday was our best day in two month—two month,” McConnell says. “And we were looking forward to everything starting to pick back up again, and the confidence starting to come back into the town. All you’ve got to just think about the last two months we’ve been in this situation, it’s probably going to be another week, then hopefully everything settles back down to normal.”

Behind him, an Ohio National Guard member walks up to return a large metal tray holding coffee stirrers and a quart of half and half. A line of Humvees from the 838th Military Police Company platoon has been posted across the way on Fourth Street since curfew began the previous night.

Gov. Mike DeWine activated the Ohio National Guard on Saturday to help control protests in Columbus, where the city has set a 10 p.m. curfew the past two nights.

Lt. Donald Clyde says that after the 10 p.m. curfew, Columbus on Sunday night was mostly uneventful.
Credit Nick Evans / WOSU

Lt. Donald Clyde says the evening was uneventful.

“It was quiet all night, nothing happened, a few people here and there walking the streets,” Clyde says. “If you live around here, you’re able to go from your car and places like that, but yeah, after that curfew, everything kind of settled down pretty nicely.”

The weekend’s demonstrations have also prompted COTA to re-route buses away from downtown.

"This means no transit stops will be served in the downtown area," COTA announced Monday morning.

Gregory Smalls
Credit Nick Evans / WOSU

That's left Gregory Smalls, a painter trying to get to work, is stranded.

“I don’t know where to catch it at," Smalls says. "I went all the way down to Grant, one COTA guy told me to go to Grant down there, and I didn’t see not a bus down there—nothing.”

COTA’s service changes extend through the end of the day.