COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Protesters marched through downtown Columbus for the eleventh day in a row Sunday as members of the city council called for charges against protesters to be dropped.
A prayer and march against racism featuring black men in suits and ties called “Gathering of Black Excellence: A Prestigious Protest” started out at Columbus City Hall Sunday afternoon before moving through the streets with chants of “Black Lives Matter,” “Black Women Matter,” and “Reject Racism.”
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and some officers in the Columbus Police Department joined the march.
The men leading the protest wore suits because they need and deserve a seat at the table for real change to happen, saying change is centuries overdue and that’s the reason for the march.
“It’s a long time coming and I look at the legacy of ancestors that have fought for this,” said protester Vinice Coleman. “It’s a responsibility beyond just today. Just to make sure we are still pressing the envelope in terms of making sure our young ones that are behind us have fair opportunities as well.”
Dr. D. Christopher Scott, who took part in the march, is a critical race scholar who’s been researching the issues black men face in public spaces for five years.
“Really, this is the tipping point,” he said. “We’ve been talking about it for 60 years, we’ve been saying, we’ve been doing it, and it’s really been talking from a head space. Now we’re talking from actionary spaces. The conversations should lead to change and not just slogans.”
Scott is pushing for black voices to be represented as change is made.
“We want to make sure that not only are we here, out here, but we’re here at the table when these conversations take place because, many times, people in the racial majority mediate our experiences,” he said.
The crowd marched around Columbus Police cruisers parked on Marconi Boulevard, fighting racism and pushing for change.
“I think this represents 400 years,” Coleman said. “I think it represents what our grandparents and great-grandparents had to endure to get us to this point. And when MLK said, ‘I have a dream,’ I think we’re at the breaking point of seeing that dream become a reality.”
In addition to the protests, Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin and President Pro Tem Elizabeth Brown have both released statements calling for charges filed against some protesters to be dismissed.
Both are calling for charges of violating the curfew or failure to disperse that were filed last week be dismissed.
Ginther rescinded the curfew Saturday after a week of police enforcing the 10 p.m. -6 a.m. curfew.
Hardin’s statement, in full, reads:
“After more than a week of protests, Mayor Ginther lifted the curfew yesterday and peaceful demonstrations continued into the evening.
“I am calling for those charged with violating curfew and ‘failure to disperse’ to have their charges dropped immediately. Folks don’t need to be penalized for peacefully assembling and making their voices heard. The City should be focused on implementing the recommendations of the Community Safety Advisory Commission.”Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin
Brown’s statement, in full, reads:
“First Amendment rights are paramount, and this past week has been a profound and historic display of those rights in Columbus.
“I am calling for the charges against protesters that relate to violating curfew or failure to disperse during this week’s demonstrations to be dropped. We should not police free speech, and people certainly do not need to face penalty by their government for exercising theirs.”Columbus City Council President Pro Tem Elizabeth Brown
Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein tweeted Sunday evening that several curfew cases at the city attorney’s office have already been dismissed.
Klein further tweeted his office is reviewing allegations of violence.
“We continue to review allegations of violence on a case-by-case basis,” he tweeted. “Only those charges with sufficient evidence will be pursued. As your city attorney, I stand with those exercising their constitutional right to demand a new culture of justice in Columbus.”
Due to possible continued protests downtown Monday, the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) announced bus service for the downtown area will be rerouted.
According to COTA, transfer points for Lines 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 102 and CMAX will now be moved to the area East Broad Street and Grant Avenue. This puts customers on those lines within walking distance of downtown.
The nightly 8 p.m. Line-up Service will also be in the area of East Broad Street and Grant Avenue. COTA transit service ends system-wide at 9:00 p.m.