COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin released a statement Monday two days after he, along with Congresswoman Joyce Beatty and Franklin County Commissioner Kevin Boyce, were among those who were pepper sprayed by police during Saturday’s protests.
In an interview with NBC4 on Sunday, Hardin called for ‘real police reform,’ saying police, at times, went too far during protests Saturday. On Monday, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther addressed that concern by asking for reports of excessive force by Columbus police.
The reports will be investigated by a civilian outside the chain of command from the Department of Public Safety’s Equal Employment Opportunity Compliance Office, which was created last year to address discrimination complaints.
Hardin’s statement on Monday dealt with his participation in Saturday’s protest and his reaction to being pepper sprayed by police while protesting.
With dried pepper spray tears on my shirt, I am shaken, saddened, and angry. I’m angry that racist violence against black people seems to change its form but never ends. I’m shaken at the feeling of powerlessness experienced by so many when they see visceral racism. And when folks try to grasp power and take to the streets they face hundreds of police officers maintaining order while reinforcing the violence inherent in police powers. I’m saddened that for many watching from the comfort of their homes, the violence of a few on the fringe will give yet one more excuse to do nothing to challenge the status quo of racism in America.
I will never forget the burning blindness of indiscriminate pepper spray as I stood with Congresswoman Joyce Beatty and County Commissioner Kevin Boyce trying to keep the crowd on the sidewalks. I’m not a natural protester. I like to sit around a table to hash out policies and plans. But I felt I needed to show up as a black man because George Floyd should be alive. Breonna Taylor should be alive. Ahmaud Arbery should be alive. Tyre King should be alive.
Our residents in Columbus and citizens across the nation are speaking out in a thousand ways to say we need immediate action. The people are speaking. I hear them. Now we must get to a shared table and use this powerful voice to make change real. We cannot do that if the table is on fire.
As a black, gay City Council President of America’s 14th largest city, I know my story is only possible because of protests past. The beatings, dogs, and hoses used through the South during Dr. King’s marches and the Stonewall Riots. We must stand against oppression.
Despite real reasons for anger, I do not excuse the few who walk amongst the protesters and choose to be destructive. Many of these folks come from outside of Columbus with their own agendas and are not seeking constructive change. These are not the protesters I know and am happy to work with.
I also want to acknowledge that our police officers are tired. Many have been out for days and days, sporting bruises from where they were hit with rocks and frozen water bottles. Protesters are bruised from wooden bullets and more. Both sides need time to rest and heal.
We must use this civil unrest to accelerate progress on real, specific reforms to fight systematic racism.
Later today at Council, Columbus will pass a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis. Franklin County has already lead the way on this cause, Mayor Ginther concurs, and we are all united in calling on other levels of regional and state government to join hands with us in honestly addressing the negative impacts of racism.
Today I also call on local leaders to help make policing reforms real this year. We must make concrete moves on the 80 recommendations from the Community Safety Advisory Commission ranging from recruitment, training, diversity and inclusion, community engagement, and independent investigations.
Columbus needs to establish independent investigations into police use of force, including negotiating a Civilian Review Commission into the next police contract. The Fraternal Order of Police has long opposed such a move, and I call on them to join us at the table to get this done.
Having experienced it first hand, we need to change the use of crowd disbursal techniques and stop spraying dangerous gases into peaceful crowds. The negative impacts far outweigh the temporary control it gives officers.
We must diversify our safety divisions, and train cultural competency for the dozens of diverse international communities that call Columbus home.
Our Police Chief is working for internal reforms. I want him and every officer to know that we want you to succeed. But we will not accept the status quo or those who cover up for egregious past acts of violence on duty.
Fighting racism is imperative in every sector and part of our society, not just policing. Through race-conscious policy-making, we’ve got to unwind the generations of racist policies in housing, public health, education, and elsewhere. On corporate boards and in the philanthropic sector we need to see clear, measured strategies to combat racial disparities.
I do truly believe that things can get better. As a Christian, I’ve been thinking a lot about grace over the past couple of days. It’s something we need to extend to one another now more than ever. And with that renewed goodwill towards one another, we can move forward with resolve and create a more just Columbus.Shannon Hardin, Columbus City Council President