Around 150 protesters gathered in Goodale Park just after noon on Friday to rally against racism in policing and bring attention to the Black Lives Matter movement at the 614 Unity March.
While racial tensions between communities and police forces have been in the national spotlight since the deaths of black Americans Trayvon Martin in 2012 in Sanford, Florida, and Michael Brown, in 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri, among others, the issue was localized to Columbus with the widely publicized death of 13-year-old Tyre King on Sept. 14, just east of downtown. A Facebook page organizing the march was set up shortly after King’s death.
Protesters, who marched to the Ohio Statehouse and then to the Franklin County Courthouse, spoke out on King’s death. King was shot to death by Columbus Division of Police officer Bryan Mason after police say King pulled a BB gun from his waistband, which police mistook for a real gun.
Columbus police do not have body cameras, and protesters at rallies in Columbus, some of which have been held on campus, questioned the details surrounding King’s death.
“It stops today,” Bob Fitrakis, the Green Party nominee for Franklin County prosecutor, said to the crowd gathered outside the statehouse. “There must be a civilian review board with subpoena power. The police can no longer investigate themselves.”
Also speaking was Adrienne Hood, the mother of Henry Green, a black man who was shot and killed by police in Columbus over the summer. Green was armed, but protests have erupted over the circumstances of his death as well.
“(The police are) supposed to be protecting and serving, but they’re not doing that in our community,” Hood said.
No charges have come from King’s or Green’s deaths, which Hood drew on to urge those gathered to vote in local elections, including the election for prosecutor. The Franklin County prosecutor’s office did not immediately return a message left seeking comment.
“Demand that your friends and family vote,” Hood said. “There have been people who died so we have the right to vote. How dare we not express our right to vote?”
Protesters moved on to the courthouse, where more chants of “No justice, no peace,” and “Black Lives Matter” were shouted in unison.
At one point, police officers moved in with horses, forcing the crowd onto the sidewalk. Tensions rose as, moments later, the mounted police moved in again, forcing those on the sidewalk closer to the courthouse and knocking down one woman.
After tensions cooled and the mounted police backed away, speeches from leaders in the protest began again.
“All black men are not a threat, and — now don’t boo me for this — neither are all police officers,” said Keiran Carthan, a Columbus resident planning to run for City Council in 2017. “There’s a dark cloud over the United States, but Columbus is going to lead this fight (in police reform).”
Carthan also used his time to question political officials currently in office.
“Not to get political, but you don’t see the mayor here, you don’t see your city council members here,” Carthan said.
Though much of the protest involved negative emotions over the deaths of King, Green and others who have been shot by police officers, James Hayes, a local organizer and activist, brightened the mood toward the end by leading the crowd in a chant usually reserved for soccer games.
“I believe that we will win, I believe that we will win,” the crowd chanted.
After wrapping up at the courthouse, those protesting made their way back to Goodale Park just after 3 p.m., chanting along the way.