Judge says Columbus police ran ‘amok’ during protests, bans future violent responses

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against the City of Columbus and its police on Friday morning, banning excessive force against nonviolent protesters in a scathing 88-page opinion.

Algenon Marbley, chief judge for the Southern District of Ohio, accused Columbus police officers of running amok during police protests last summer.

Among other things, police are prohibited from infliction of pain to punish nonviolent protesters and may only enforce orders to disperse if it’s probable that a protestor has committed a violent violation or is blocking traffic.

The injunction says police are restrained from using:

  • Tear gas
  • Pepper spray
  • Flash-bang grenades
  • Rubber bullets
  • Wooden pellets
  • Batons
  • Body slams
  • Pushing/pulling
  • Kettling, a crowd-control method

“This case is the sad tale of police officers, clothed with the awesome power of the state, run amok,” Marbley wrote. The full order can be read here.

Mayor Andrew Ginther acknowledge that the ruling shows that the city “fells short” in its response.

“We have already implemented changes that address most, if not all, of the orders in the court’s decision so that residents can feel safe in expressing their First Amendment rights in a nonviolent way,” Ginther said in a statement. “The changes we made last summer have been evident in many protest events that followed, without confrontation or incident.”

And Sean Walton, an attorney representing one of the plaintiffs, called the order “necessary.”

“This is something that we believe was necessary to protect the rights of peaceful protesters here in Columbus, and people who are in the streets trying to actively change Columbus and move the city forward,” Walton said.

The order further says police body cameras must be in working order, identification must be worn, and police must recognize members of the media.

The injunction came in response to a federal lawsuit filed by 26 people who accuse police of using excessive force during protests against police violence.

The plaintiffs claimed they were protesting in a peaceful, nonviolent manner and following police orders when they were victims of excessive force. Some of the evidence in the case came from witnesses who took videos on their phones and from police body camera footage.

In one of the videos, a protestor wearing a full gas mask was shown appearing to comply with police orders when an officer ripped off the mask from behind. The protestor shoved the officer in response and then was thrown to the ground and arrested. Body camera footage showed the officers celebrating with fist bumps afterward.

The video exhibits in the case may be viewed through the links below:

Ginther has he has made several moves recently in regards to the Division of Police. In January, chief Thomas Quinlan stepped down to return to his previous role as a deputy chief after a year on the job. A new chief has yet to be named.

Ginther and other city officials authorized an independent criminal investigation of police actions during the protests. An administrative review of the protests found eight complaints to be substantiated by evidence.

An independent review of the city’s and police’s response to the protests concluded that the city had been unprepared, found problems in communication among city officials, and found that rifts exist between city leaders and police and between police leaders and rank-and-file members.

Upon completion of the review, Ginther asked the U.S. Department of Justice to look into the police force.

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