Authorities are conducting a criminal investigation after the outside of the Ohio Statehouse was defaced with red hand prints and the phrase “hands up, don’t shoot” in protest of police brutality.
State troopers began to wash off some of the red paint on the western side of the statehouse on Thursday afternoon as a group of people protesting police brutality watched. It’s the latest example of damage to the downtown Columbus icon since protests over the police killing of George Floyd began three weeks ago.
“That’s blood on their hands,” Derek Terry, 22, of Grove City, shouted over to troopers, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
Terry told the Dispatch the paint symbolized how minorities have been the victims of police brutality.
The Ohio Highway Patrol has opened a case to document the damage and try to identify suspects, patrol spokesman Lt. Craig Cvetan said Friday.
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine said he shared his anger and disgust over the vandalism with state police.
“I support the right to peacefully protest,”DeWine said in a statement Friday. “However, defacing, damaging and vandalizing our state capitol and its grounds are wrong, and such actions are criminal.”
Early the morning of May 29, as protests erupted nationally over Floyd’s death, protesters in Columbus smashed 28 windows at the Statehouse along with storefronts throughout the downtown of Ohio’s capital city. Windows at ground level at the Statehouse were boarded up that day and remained so Friday.
The Statehouse was the site of numerous large protests after that, though crowd sizes have diminished in recent days.
“It is always very disappointing to see the Statehouse defaced,” said Laura Battocletti, executive director of the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board. “But I’m confident that our work with the Ohio Highway Patrol will ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
Battocletti said there will be an increase in trooper presence near the Statehouse as a result of Thursday’s incident.
House Speaker Larry Householder criticized the vandalism, calling for Gov. Mike DeWine to protect taxpayers’ property.
“There is no excuse that night after night the Ohio Statehouse gets beaten, spray painted & abuses,” the Republican lawmaker tweeted Thursday.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted also responded, calling for the protesters to show up and “clean up the mess they made.”
The action comes as some are calling for the removal of a statue of Christopher Columbus from the Statehouse grounds. Similar statues are being taken down at Columbus State Community College and City Hall, leaving the Statehouse monument as the last representation of the controversial explorer downtown.
Mayor Andrew Ginther’s decision to remove the statue from City Hall led to a citizen suing the city to try to stop it.
Democratic Sen. Hearcel Craig is among those calling for the Statehouse statue to be moved.
“We need to have these discussions if we are serious about eradicating the long-term problem of systemic racism,” Craig tweeted Thursday. “There should not be symbols of oppression on our public lands.”
The advisory board overseeing statehouse grounds will meet July 16 to discuss the potential removal of the remaining Columbus statue, Battocletti said.
Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.