COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday that there weren’t enough state troopers immediately available to prevent an act of vandalism at the Ohio Statehouse last week, and vowed that wouldn’t be the case again.
DeWine said he spoke earlier in the day with State Highway Patrol leaders to check in on the status of an ongoing investigation into the incident, during which protesters on Thursday put red handprints and painted messages on the Statehouse, including on a marble column, and on nearby statues.
State troopers have said they responded as quickly as they could after protesters began applying the paint. State employees have worked to remove it.
“It’s clear to me they did not have enough troopers who were there at that time that it occurred. … They will have enough people there,” DeWine said during his coronavirus briefing on Tuesday. “This damage will not take place in the future. This is damage that we should not tolerate, and will not tolerate. We will be able to protect the Statehouse.”
DeWine also addressed what he said was a minority of protesters who have “acted violently” and broken laws. Some protesters in downtown Columbus in recent days have surrounded cars, blocked traffic and set a fire in the street, according to media reports and police.
Demonstrators meanwhile have accused police of using excessive force against them. The protests against racism and police violence have been a regular feature since they first began nearly four weeks ago.
“Demonstration is a positive thing they have every right to do that,” DeWine said. “But when you’ve reached the point to have violence, that is simply not to be tolerated.”
DeWine, a Republican, has faced intensifying criticism from state lawmakers within his own party, including House Speaker Larry Householder, for not doing more to protect the Statehouse.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted also addressed protests on Tuesday.
“All of us can either escalate or de-escalate a situation with their words and with their actions,” Husted said. “And that’s what we’re encouraging: more peacemakers with this process.”