COLUMBUS, Ohio — Admonishing himself for not addressing the death of George Floyd sooner, Gov. Mike DeWine acknowledged the pain and anger felt by many African-Americans in Ohio that goes beyond an incident that occurred 700 miles away.
“The distress, the anger, the fear are real,” he said during a hastily news conference, hours after protesters smashed the windows of the Statehouse and downtown Columbus storefronts.
“I say to every African-American male, every African-American woman, children, you’re valued, you’re an essential part of this community and no one will forget that,” the governor said.
He said he first got a call about what was happening at the Statehouse Thursday about 10 p.m. He praised the response of police and highway patrol members.
He specifically spoke about the death of Mr. Floyd as a catalyst for protests occurring across the country, including in Columbus. But he acknowledged shortcomings in Ohio that he said may also play a role in African-Americans’ frustrations, including health disparities that have become more evident during the coronavirus crisis.
Rioters smashed windows in the Ohio Statehouse and broke the glass in historic gas lamps. They smashed storefront windows and in the Ohio Theater across from the Statehouse.
On Friday, the Statehouse was locked to the general public. Many highway patrol officers stationed themselves in the atrium in preparation for a second night of protests as others patrolled the grounds outside. Lower windows around the entire perimeter of the building and been boarded—shuttering those already broken and protecting those still intact.
The governor had no dollar estimates on the extent of damage.
“All of us have an obligation to speak out against injustice, to speak out against racism,” Mr. DeWine said. “Speaking against injustice and racism is even more important for a leader, even more important for the governor. I missed that opportunity at [Thursday’s coronavirus update briefing], and I regret that. “
He promised a renewed emphasis on police training.
The governor encouraged protests that he said he expects to happen again this weekend as a right and a responsibility. But he urged peaceful protest, rather than violence.
In a tweet, President Trump said, among other things that “these THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen… Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”
When asked whether he agreed with that sentiment, Mr. DeWine, who is usually careful not to criticize the President, said “not the last sentence at all.”