As protesters gather, many seek, make connections

By Rita Price, Alissa Widman Neese - The Columbus Dispatch (TNS)

For Cheryl Smith and her college-age daughter, there was a distinct advantage to the somewhat thinner crowd gathered at the Statehouse on Sunday afternoon.

Smith, who is white, had a clear line to Deborah Franklin, a black woman who had just stood before a microphone and spoke movingly of the nation’s need to recognize and dismantle systematic racism.

“Can I hug you?” said Smith, mindful of social distancing protocols but overwhelmed and crying.

Franklin nodded and smiled.

“I was raised in a racist family,” Smith said, “and I refused to raise my daughter that way. It’s wrong.”

Franklin, 49, a Virginia native who lives in Reynoldsburg, had driven Downtown to stand among activists for the first time on Sunday. She was heartened by what she saw, feeling cautious but hopeful that the days of protests triggered by the video of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody are helping people to recognize long-festering disparities.

Smith, 47, and her daughter, Megan, said they drove to Columbus from Cincinnati because they hadn’t yet been able to get close to the gatherings in that city.

Crowds on Sunday afternoon in Columbus were not too thick early in the afternoon but were growing.

On Saturday, thousands had poured into the center of the city, marching from Bexley and the University district, from Goodale and Schiller parks.

Crowds thinned later that night and remained peaceful, as they have for the past week.

But unlike in recent days, there was no 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. curfew. Mayor Andrew J. Ginther rescinded the emergency order that had established an overnight curfew throughout the city.

Ginther took the step after a lawsuit was filed Friday in federal court, saying the lack of violence and vandalism rendered the curfew unconstitutional.

Also on Saturday, activists gathered at Franklin Park east of Downtown to remember 23-year-old Henry Green V, who was shot and killed by two plainclothes Columbus police officers four years ago during a confrontation in South Linden.

A Franklin County grand jury determined in 2017 that there was no wrongdoing by the officers and declined to indict them in the shooting.

Green’s brother, Jayden Turner, 21, said support from the organizers of Saturday’s event has helped him and their mother keep their spirits up.

“His death will always hurt, and him not being here,” Turner said. “But people showing us this amount of love, and bringing this much attention to what’s going on, with these deaths, that really is important to me. It means a lot.”

Many people “want to see a change,” he said, “and everyone is willing to work together to move forward.”

Organizers released balloons in memory of Green. After dark, they moved to the site where police shot him and hosted a candlelight vigil.

By Rita Price, Alissa Widman Neese

The Columbus Dispatch (TNS)

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