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Protests Turn Violent Overnight Downtown

Damage at the Statehouse
Credit Karen Kasler

Officials say a protest against police brutality held last night in downtown Columbus turned violent just before midnight.  

Hundreds of people began gathering last night at around 7 near the Statehouse to protest the death of George Floyd this week in Minneapolis. 

Some people threw debris at Columbus Police officers, who then used spray to control the crowd, which left shortly after 10 p.m.  About an hour later, crowds reappeared and began smashing windows at the Statehouse before police arrived in greater numbers to disperse the crowd.

Damage to CAPA ticket office
Credit Karen Kasler

Windows were also broken at the Ohio Theatre and CAPA ticket office. It's unclear how many injuries and arrests took place. 

Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler surveyed the area this morning and offered the following perspective.

Some demonstrators picked up trash cans and threw them at the windows to smash them, and then tried to come in through the High Street entrance, which has been locked to public access for years. Two tall lamps on that side of the building were damaged, and since those are more than a century old, the glass may be hard to replace. A few small flags in a display on the other side of the Statehouse were set on fire last night. The remaining ones were pulled up by Statehouse grounds crew and brought inside. The Ohio statehouse has been the site of many protests over the years – over many major issues, over displays by the Ku Klux Klan and over the collective bargaining reform law known as Senate Bill 5, which brought thousands of people to the grounds in 2011. But windows weren’t broken or the property damaged in any of those. An estimated 27 windows were smashed or cracked, small flags were set on fire and a closed-off entrance was breached but troopers prevented anyone from getting inside.

Columbus Mayor Andy Ginther issued the following statement on Twitter:

I understand why some residents are angry and taking to the streets. I have said many times that racism exists across the country, state and right here in Columbus. We are committed to addressing racism wherever we see it.

Franklin County Commissioners sent out this statement:

Last year, the Franklin County Commissioners highlighted the role that race and racism play in the unequal poverty rates in our community.  Last week, we formally recognized racism as a public health crisis, and today we recognize it as a threat to our community. In Central Ohio as in most of the country, neighbors separated by only a few blocks sometimes might as well be living in different worlds. The economic disparities, housing options, quality of a public education, availability of good jobs, and even the kind of policing each neighborhood receives vary widely depending on who lives on which block. 

With the rise of cell phone video, all of us can watch the inevitable outcomes of these inequities in real time.  Just this week, we’ve seen a black man killed in an encounter with police and a white woman lying to the police about a black man who’d simply asked her to leash her dog; and that doesn’t even make it an unusual week.

We don’t have all of the answers to these very big issues, but we see them and we are committed to working with our community on solutions.  Peaceful protest has a long and important history in our country, and we will not condemn it.  We do call on both the protesters and the police to exercise restraint.  The safety of all of our community members must be our highest priority.  Addressing the systemic inequities that have led us to this point must be our ultimate objective."