About 150 protesters marched under cloudy skies and a police helicopter through downtown Columbus on Saturday as they called for justice in recent police killings of Black men and women around the country.
The march, dubbed the “Black Lives Still Matter” protest, was organized by Kiara Yakita and other local activists, who spoke outside the Statehouse before marching down South High Street to Rich Street, onto Front Street, to Broad Street and back to the Statehouse.
The peaceful protest and subsequent march, Yakita said, was the culmination of recent police shootings of Black men that represent a “multi-generational” struggle, Yakita said.
As they marched, protesters chanted sayings like “no justice, no peace,” and shouted expletives about law enforcement. They carried signs and flags reading “Black Lives Matter” and others that called for the elimination of qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that shields police from civil liability unless they violate a plaintiff’s constitutional or statutory rights.
“We did all of that demonstrating last year and clearly they haven’t learned, they don’t care. There’s no empathy and there’s no attempt at improvement,” Yakita said. “So, here we are again with even more murders.”
Saturday’s march was peaceful and caused few problems other than a short traffic delay, with police presence largely negligible. It was the latest in a series of protests this week in downtown Columbus, most of them peaceful.
On Tuesday night, however, Columbus police officers dispersed a crowd with mace outside their headquarters on Marconi Boulevard while arresting an Ohio State University student from Wauseon in northwest Ohio.
The incident occurred at 9:23 p.m. after protesters returned from a Downtown march to the police headquarters. Some protesters entered the west-facing, first-floor doors to the building after handcuffs used to keep the door locked were broken.
Police officers met them inside and started escorting them back outside when the sergeant was struck.
A protest Monday night in Westerville and subsequent protests this week made reference to a fatal shooting in the emergency department at Mount Carmel St. Ann’s Hospital in Westerville on Monday afternoon.
Miles Jackson, 27, of Columbus’ Northwest Side, was killed in an exchange of gunfire with officers inside the emergency department. at Mount Carmel St. Ann’s medical center. Columbus police on Wednesday afternoon identified officers Andrew Howe and Ryan Krichbaum, both 15-year veterans of the force, as officers who were involved in the shooting.
Westerville police Chief Charles Chandler said Monday that at least one St. Ann’s security officer also had fired a weapon. St. Ann’s has refused to identify any of its four officers involved in the incident, citing privacy and the ongoing investigation into the shooting being led by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Protesters on Saturday chanted Jackson’s name but also the names of others killed by police in recent months. They shouted the name of Casey Goodson Jr., who was shot and killed by Franklin County Sheriff’s SWAT deputy Michael Jason Meade, a 17-year veteran, on Dec. 4 in Columbus’ Northland area.
Protesters also shouted the name of Andre Hill, 47, an unarmed Black man who was shot and killed by former Columbus police Officer Adam Coy on Dec. 22 on Columbus’ Northwest Side. Coy has been charged with murder.
Aramis Sudiata, executive director of the People’s Justice Project, called for revolution to prevent future police killings in the Black community. To make change happen, Sudiata said that protesters needed to stay “razor focused and disciplined.”
Sudiata pointed to the fact that despite people in the crowd being different races and genders, that every protester in the crowd has a hand with five fingers on it. He told them to pull their fingers together.
“When we put that right fist up,” he said. “Things happen.”