WARNING: The video above contains some strong language. Viewer discretion is advised.
On Sunday, for the fourth straight day, protestors gathered at the Ohio statehouse.
They chanted in unison, took a knee in silence with fists in the air, and then began marching through the streets of downtown Columbus.
But for one protestor, it felt like that wasn’t enough.
“We were all out here chanting and everything – I don’t think there was a true message that was getting to the point there. Everyone was in solidarity and that’s great, but when you just announce things, it gets their attention but it doesn’t do what we’re really trying to do,” said Mark Granville, 26. “We want to be heard at the end of the day. We don’t want to just be seen. We were seen when we did the knee. We want to be heard and we want change to happen from that.”
So Granville took it upon himself to really be heard, and began a conversation with a group of Ohio State troopers on the statehouse steps.
“My biggest thing was to just talk to them about what I experience,” he said. “That was my first time speaking with an officer for that length of time. And I’m pretty sure the first time he’s had that kind of conversation with someone who looks like me.”
The discussion began with Granville and one other protestor. Eventually, a couple more joined. Then even more. Eventually, a group of dozens stood together at the base of the steps taking part in the discussion.
Sunday marked the fourth day of protests in downtown Columbus in response to the death of George Floyd while under police custody on May 25. Video of a Minneapolis Police Officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck has gone viral and the officer has been formally charged in Floyd’s death.
What started out as a small group of about five protesters soon ballooned to a large crowd, with some of the protesters taking time to step up to the officers and instigate a discussion about why they are marching.
While some of the protesters got a little emotional at times telling their stories, everyone on both sides appeared respectful and open to listening.
A trooper was asked by one of the protesters if he would be able to stop an officer from using what may be perceived as excessive force, as in the Floyd case in Minneapolis.
“I can confidently say that I would,” the OSHP trooper responded. “I have not ever been in that situation, but if I had to, but I’m convinced all these guys would because that’s the way we’re taught.”
“We know that some of y’all took this oath to serve and protect, and you took it to heart because behind every shield is a heart,” one of the protestors said to the troopers. “But you know that that badge does not protect you from the real truth which is racism and hatred is wrong!”
“I think step one is this,” one of the troopers said to the group. “I think this is great.”
Granville said African Americans have been seeking reform for more than 60 years.
“It’s been 30 years since Rodney King happened, and now we’re still here doing something similar,” Granville said. “And sure, Thursday, it got way out of hand where the statehouse started to get demolished and things to that extent, but it’s still 30 years since that happened and 60 years since Martin Luther King was marching and we’re still going through the exact same things.”
Another protester asked the troopers to help point out racism within their department.
“When you see other police officers saying racist things and being racist, I’m not saying that you’re a racist, but when you see it within your ranks, it’s up to you to purge it,” the man said. “Those people drug you into this situation because of their actions, and if you won’t purge them from the ranks, then all of you are just a culpable.”
Another protester told the story of her brother, who she said was shot and killed by an officer one year ago.
“This has been going on in my life since I started to walk,” she said. “I know more people who have died in the hands of a cop than I know who have died of old age, heart disease, anything like that.”
She then told the troopers change has to start with the officers.
“There should be no reason why we have to fear for our lives every single day to come outside not knowing if we’re going to make it home to our families or not,” she said.
The large crowd remained respectful of the officers and the officers respectful of the protesters.
“I appreciate you guys and thank you for what you do,” one protester said to the troopers, shaking their hands before he left. “I wish there were more people like you guys.”
“We were able to kinda hear both side that we go through but also understand what’s going through each of our minds,” Granville said after he’d left the conversation. “My biggest thing, I just want him to understand why we’re here.”
After each protestor said his or her peace and listened, they stepped away, and Granville said that’s what is most important: the next steps.
“I wanted to have that conversation so we were hopefully able to move forward and figure out a way that we can work together to find a solution because what happens after the protests?” he said. “If both sides understand maybe we can actually see some change.”
The City of Columbus will remain under a curfew beginning at 10 p.m. Sunday and lasting until 6 a.m. Monday.