A sensory overload had developed on the streets of Downtown Columbus Tuesday night in the name of Mike Brown and the Ferguson, Mo., uprising.
Lights from police cars flashed as the cruisers blocked then-busy Broad Street, Columbus protesters initiated their first Ferguson-influenced action hollering “Hands up! Don’t Shoot!” or “No Justice, no peace! No racist police!”
The event was led by several organizers, beginning with some statements near the Franklin Park Amphitheater.
Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man, was fatally shot by police officer Darren Wilson during the day in Ferguson, Mo. on Aug. 9. Brown was unarmed.
Wilson said Brown had been uncooperative after he suspected Brown had stole from a nearby convenience store. Brown was fatally shot by Wilson after an altercation between the two.
It was announced Monday that Wilson will not face criminal charges for his actions. He later told ABC that he wouldn’t have done anything different.
“I’m standing here today because, like many of you, I’m fed up,” said Rashida Davidson, a TransOhio activist.
Davidson told the crowd that even though many people were shocked at the lacking indictment, she was not surprised.
“We all know that this is a race issue,” she said in reply to the many passionate comments on the event’s Facebook page voicing that this happening wasn’t about race.
The participants shook off the 35º F cold to cheer.
Sparse yells already started at this point. “F— the police!” spurted here and there from the outskirts of the crowd.
Timothy Singratsomboune, a fourth-year Ohio State student majoring in ethnic studies, took the megaphone and laid down the plans for the night before offering some statistics.
“Columbus, Ohio has the 2nd highest rate of killings by police in this country,” Singratsomboune shared. “We actually have more than ten times the rate of police killings than New York City, in all 5 boroughs combined.”
The point of the gathering was to deliver a letter to the Internal Affairs Bureau of the Columbus Police demanding for a functional, independently acting review board to keep an eye on the activity of the Columbus Police.
“We expect an answer by the end of the year … we expect an answer tonight, honestly,” he finished.
Marching from Franklin Park all the way to 738 E. Long St., which is about 1 ½ miles, the participants eventually took up the right lane of the road upon turning off of Broad Street onto Ohio Avenue and then eventually all of Long Street until convening at the Columbus DIvision of Police Internal Affairs Bureau.
The loaded road was littered with all sorts of signs illuminating the discontent of the people aimed against the police state in the U.S.
Traffic had been stopped or heavily slowed up and down Ohio Avenue and Long Street. Cars honked their horns and protesters cheered. Some vehicles stopped next to the marchers with their phones out and took videos while joining in the chants.
Along the residential areas, people stood outside their homes on patios and sidewalks to watch the march. Some even ran out of their doors to walk to the Bureau.
As the crowd settled into position on the closed-off part of the road in front of the Police Bureau, several police officers on horseback lined up around the protest. Though met with some negative shouts, the people were generally peaceful toward the presence.
At the ending location, another leader in the march, Aramis Malachi-Ture Sundiata, a youth program director of the Ohio Student Association, asked everyone to join in a moment of silence.
The silence was enacted to pray for and appease the wishes of Mike Brown’s family, Sundiata said. The commander of the Columbus Police Department met with the crowd down on the sidewalk during this time.
As the megaphone floated to the other side of the protesters, OSU student Singratsomboune began his statement regarding the demands of the people to the Columbus Police.
“Justice has not been granted in the United States,” he exclaimed. “Darren Wilson, the killer of Michael Brown, will not even be taken to trial — let alone expected to answer for the death of an unarmed teenager.
“The people of Columbus cannot accept this,” he said.
Editor’s note: This audio clip contains explicit language.
Protesters made their agreement heard in the background.
“We often hear that there are bad police officers, but the majority of officers want to do the right thing,” he said into the megaphone. “If this is true, then surely the good police officers are demanding better of their bad colleagues.”
If the police are not making such demands, then they are betraying the people they claim to protect, he said.
The letter asks that the Columbus Division of Police release an official statement condemning the lack of an indictment for Darren Wilson, Singratsomboune said.
“Good police officers do not let bad police officers kill unarmed teenagers and walk away without a speedy and public trial as mentioned in the Constitution,” he told the gathering.
Singratsomboune said Columbus lacks an independent and functional civilian review board. The leaders find this negligent when compared to the amount of police killings in Columbus.
The protest demands that the Columbus Division of Police publicly advocate for a civilian board, with sensitivity to the long history of racial violence in the city, Singratsomboune said.
A wave of “Black Lives Matter!” swept across the protesters.
After Singratsomboune finished his statement he asked Cmdr. Jennifer Knight to come forward to receive the letter.
“The Columbus Division of Police —” Cmdr. Knight began, interrupted by shouts from the crowd unable to hear her.
“The Columbus Division of Police will have an opportunity to review this, all of our leaders within the division will take a look at your requests and demands and we’ll take a look at this letter and we’ll have an opportunity to review this and discuss some of these issues.”
She spoke through more complaints of her lacking volume.
“You have my personal guarantee that I will take this directly to my chief of police,” she said.
A random member of the crowd asked, “Do you support a civilian review board?” Followed by yells of, “Yes or no?”
“The issue of a civilian review board has been brought up several times, I am open to an opportunity to discuss —” she was cut off again by a “yes or no” chant.
Knight smiled — slightly taken back — and walked away from the megaphone back into the building.
A public forum where anyone could take the megaphone then opened up for a brief time until the crowd was dispersed.
Editor’s note: This audio clip contains explicit language.
The police had apparently given the protest a short amount of time before they would begin to bring order back to the streets, said Singratsomboune.
Some Columbus residents like Colin Cousins stayed on site, hoping for more of an action from the group — who rapidly evacuated the premises to return to their cars at Franklin Park.
“Everyone’s way too content with the current situation,” Cousins said, “no one wants to be that first person that actually steps out of line because all of the focus goes on them.”
“Somewhere the deceased are probably screaming because their voices can’t be heard right now — those people who were speaking were the voices for the deceased,” Cousins said.
“By us dispersing, we’re just letting go — this could have been that one moment that every revolution has, where the turning point flips and the people actually succeed,” he said.