Two activists were arrested during the city of Columbus' Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast on Monday morning while protesting the 2018 police killing of a black teenager.
A lieutenant with the Columbus Division of Police says Dkeama Alexis and Mia Santiago began yelling while Mayor Andrew Ginther was addressing the audience at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
Activists say the protest intended to draw attention to the killing of Julius Ervin Tate Jr., who was fatally shot by Columbus Police during a December 2018 robbery sting operation.
Lieutenant Elrico Alli says the director of the event and special duty officers asked the protesters to stop. When they refused, the officers arrested them on criminal trespassing charges.
Alli says the convention center is considered private property when rented for an event.
In a series of tweets on Monday, Ginther defended the officers who "did their job" by arresting protesters, but also said that "today and every day, it is important to defend the right to protest."
Police were asked to remove protesters this morning, and they did their job. The conversation should not focus on this single protest, but on the truth that unites us and our shared obligation to close the divide between communities of color and the police.
— Mayor Andrew Ginther (@MayorGinther) January 20, 2020
The Columbus Freedom Coalition was raising money Monday to help protesters. In a statement, the coalition said Santiago and Alexis chanted,"Justice for Julius; Julius had a dream" in "a peaceful demonstration."
Columbus folks -
If you’re celebrating anti-racist, nonviolent, direct action today, you should watch this livestream excerpt and then donate to @cbusfreedom coalition.https://t.co/Byr7osYkMX#MLKDay #mlkday2020 #juliustatejr pic.twitter.com/BNJrDmZIpr
— Colleen Craig (@Colleen_eCraig) January 20, 2020
In December 2018, Columbus Police said an officer opened fire after Tate, 16, pulled a gun on another undercover officer. Authorities say the sting followed a series of robberies of people responding to social media sale ads.
The department has defended the shooting, while activists have likened it to entrapment. Attorneys for Tate's family claim to have witnesses who dispute the police version of what happened.
The officer's killing of Tate also led to felony murder charges against Tate's alleged accomplice, Masonique Saunders. Ohio law allows people to be charged with murder if their criminal actions contributed to another person's death.
Saunders was later sentenced to three years in juvenile prison after pleading guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated robbery.