COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Heavily armed men and women, many in full combat gear, marched through downtown Columbus Friday morning.
They said their purpose is to let people know they are here to protect freedom for all.
More than 100 militia members from around the country marched from COSI to the Statehouse to talk about freedom and rights, but when they got there, they were met with jeers from about a dozen protesters.
The protest group descended from the statehouse steps chanting, “Hey hey, no fear, immigrants are welcome here.” A barricade set up and manned by Ohio State Patrol troopers separated the two groups.
The militia group standing on the steps of the McKinley Statue on the High Street side responded with their own message for the protesters. Yelling in unison, “Freedom, 1, 2, 3 freedom.”
Paige Stemen from Piqua marched with the militia group carrying an American flag. She said she with a specific reason for marching.
“We are here to peacefully assemble and let everyone know we are here for unity. We are here to come together as Americans, to make sure our freedoms are protected, even those on the other side,” said Stemen.
Asked about seeing semi-automatic weapons and combat gear laden people marching downtown, Stemen said folks should not be concerned.
“No not when it is being worn by men and women who served this country,” Stemen replied.
One militia member taunted protesters when he said Muslims don’t belong in America. Bilal El Yousseph was standing there, and took offense; he said several of his family members are military veterans.
“So why do people say Muslims don’t belong here? It really kills me, our sacrifices don’t mean anything. This is our country as much as anyone else’s,” said El Yousseph.
Both sides seemed to agree on one thing – that dialog, even voiced at the top of their lungs, is important.
There are three different bills before state lawmakers related to firearms and gun rights.