When Columbus residents come to City Hall to voice their concerns, City Council members always thank them for their advocacy, often in tones that stop just short of being patronizing. The City Council meeting on September 26 was no exception. 

“We’re grateful that you’re taking time out of your day to be with us this evening,” City Council President Zach Klein told 150 audience members who came to protest the police killings of Tyre King and Henry Green. “It’s really important with all issues facing the City of Columbus that we have an engaged citizenry,” he said. “I’m grateful for the activism, the determination, the passion, and the resolve for justice, accountability, and transparency.”

The crowd was not interested in Klein’s gratitude. After sitting through two of Council’s agenda items, a woman stood up and shouted, “Will you amend the Columbus city budget to remove the Summer Safety Initiative and replace it with neighborhood programs?”

“I thank you for your advocacy,” Klein responded. “But I respectfully ask that you follow the rules of Council —”

“Yes or no, sir?” the woman shouted. “Your rules are killing us!”

“Yes or no?” the audience stood up and chanted.

“I’m going to give you one more opportunity to sit down, or I’m going to have everyone escorted out,” Klein said. Ignoring the warning, a dozen protesters slowly approached the dais where City Council was assembled. As the protesters took the floor, all members of Council left the room through a back exit.

Police chief Kim Jacobs and ten other officers stood silently while the protesters held a rally for 20 minutes. “No justice, no peace!” they chanted. “No racist police!” 

“You’re the front line,” a protester shouted at the police. “And those cowards who pull your strings didn’t know what to do. They ran out!” All of the officers except Chief Jacobs filed out into the hallway before the rally ended.

“We’ll be back!” the crowd chanted as they left City Hall. No one was arrested.

The protest was organized by the People’s Justice Project, which is making these demands of City Council:

  1. Discontinue the Summer Safety Initiative, and reinvest its budget into community-based violence prevention strategies, trauma services, and youth programming.
  2. Allocate at least half of the $300 million police and safety budget to prevention, intervention, and community-controlled policing.
  3. Reallocate the $33.4 million bond package that the city is requesting for police facility improvements and substations, using the funds instead for trauma recovery services for neighborhoods that are being hardest hit by violence.
  4. In reinvesting the funds, agree to work with a task force that includes community members, experts in criminal justice reform and violence prevention, and family members of the victims of police-involved shootings.
  5. Support independent investigations and transparent prosecution in the deaths of Henry Green, Tyre King, and all future police-involved shootings.

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