Police on street with balloons

On the night of July 2nd after protesters placed scores of balloons into a downtown street, Columbus Police on their public radio scanner talked about needing to arrest specific protesters, such as a young lady who has used a bullhorn to read from the book The End of Policing in front of police headquarters.

Here is the audio recording from that night.

The recording was posted by LGBQT and BLM activist Drew Michael Wunder, who is well-known by his “Bubble the Drag Queen” persona. The 26-year-old Wunder documents many protests on Facebook Live.

Activists have been reporting how Columbus police appear to be targeting specific protesters over the previous several weeks, utilizing unconstitutional tactics to ID, arrest and charge protesters. The police often fraudulently charge them with felony rioting, in some cases, when they are simply protesting peacefully.

But the scanner recording from the balloon protest offers actual smoking-gun proof.

As the balloons scatter throughout the street, Columbus police say “we definitely want to detain” and get “identification” of specific protesters, such as a female “with the bullhorn” with “closed cropped hair” who has “been reading from books the last three or four days” in front of police headquarters, and that we definitely “would like to get an ID on her if we can. We haven’t been able to identify her yet.”

As police arrive on the scene, they ask protesters to “clean this up,” but then quickly arrest several of them before they could respond. They were subsequently charged with vehicle vandalism and littering. Vehicle vandalism is usually the charge for those who drop rocks on cars from overpasses.

The female with the bullhorn reading The End of Policing (by author Alex. S. Vitale) in front of police headquarters was one of the protesters arrested. She too was charged with vehicle vandalism and littering.

“This is straight up targeting. Never in our wildest dreams did we think people would be arrested for vehicle vandalism with a balloon,” says activist Melissa Lapatinksy, a 30-something who doesn’t align herself with any particular protest group. “Out of 20 to 30 people they chose them before they even arrive on the scene.”

Lapatinksy has been trying to raise attention to the audio recording by promoting it on social media.

On the scanner audio recording police also say, “The other one we definitely want to detain is that male black bi-racial. He’s going to have a black vest on that says ‘Joker’s Wrath’ on it.”

Predictable enough, Mayor Ginther has denied the tactic of targeting specific protesters is ongoing.

“No one has responded to this,” says Lapatinksy. “The mayor, CPD. We’ve put it on Twitter, it’s all over Facebook.”

Lapatinksy says the girl reading in front of City Hall did not put the balloons in the street and had no connection to those who put them there.

This police strategy, suggests Lapatinksy, is to obtain ID from those who have no criminal record and fraudulently give peaceful protesters a criminal record so to dissuade them from activism.

No doubt, being charged with felony rioting or even a misdemeanor could have lasting negative implications for anyone.  

“They got what they wanted from her, her identification because God forbid, you peacefully read outside of headquarters,” says Lapatinksy. “They are picking off people who are refusing to give ID."

The Free Press will continue to provide updates on those charged and the targeting of specific protesters as this develops.