Thousands Of Protesters March In Columbus, While Curfew Comes And Goes

Jun 6, 2020

Scores of people, young and old, continue to take to the streets in Columbus. More than a week after demonstrations began over George Floyd's death and police violence, the city's curfew remains in place but enforced little, as police mostly stuck to the hands-off approach they've taken after recent critcism.

On Friday afternoon, parents brought their children out to a family-friendly protest in Clintonville. 

Kristen Johnson was there with her husband and her three sons. She’s white, her husband is black, and her boys are mixed race.

"We were looking for an opportunity that our kids could be involved, so that they understand that people are fighting for them and will continue to fight for them," she says. 

Her 7-year-old holds a sign that asks, "When do I go from cute to dangerous?" 

"That's what we're trying to fight against. That racism, that oppression," Johnson says. "So that they will always be seen as beautiful black boys, and beautiful black men."

Nama Khalil attended the protest with her 4-year-old daughter. She has been trying to explain this moment to her daughter, while also keeping the explanation age-appropriate. 

"We just talked that black people are not treated fairly or equally in this country, and somebody by the name of George Floyd got hurt," Khalil says. "And he should not have been hurt in the way that he was hurt. And we are here to demand justice for him." 

Kristen Johnson, center, with her sons.
Credit Paige Pfleger / WOSU

Later in the evening, thousands of people gathered downtown at the Ohio Statehouse. Speakers encouraged the crowd, the largest it's been in days, to push for lasting change.

"We’ve got to vote for them judges. We've got to vote for them city reps," one protester said into a megaphone. "We have got to change everything. It’s no longer just about the Columbus Police, it’s about that entire criminal justice department. The whole thing has got to change."

The crowd also sang happy birthday to Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed in her home by Louisville Police. Friday would have been her 27th birthday.

A protester marches past a National Guard vehicle. Her shirt reads "Be strong, be brave, be fearless. You are never alone."
Credit Paige Pfleger / WOSU

With few police around, save one circling helicopter, masses of protesters turned to march up through the Short North.

Near campus, protesters cheered for an 83-year-old woman who stood on her porch holding a sign that says "defend black voices." She waved and blew kisses at the passing crowd.

"I'm so proud of you young people," she told them.

About 30 minutes after curfew, protesters on High Street ran into a line of Columbus Police officers in riot gear. The interaction was tense, as officers maintained a blockade, but after several minutes, protesters walked away and continued marching. 

Earlier in the day, Mayor Andrew Ginther pledged to launch an independent, third-party review of police use of force during demonstrations. In a heated meeting with the city's Safety Advisory Commission, Ginther said a citizen review board would be his "top priority" for the next police contract, and that he would form a working group by July.

As demonstrations started thinning out after 11 p.m., protesters encouraged each other to go home. Police vehicles blocked protesters in cars from returning to downtown.

"We won tonight," one organizer said. "We're out an hour and a half past curfew. But now it's bedtime."