This story was originally published on June 29, 2020.
Columbus Police dragged a woman from the sidewalk into the street and pulled a man from the sidewalk, then threw him to the ground after police in riot gear had blocked off the intersection of Broad and High Street around midnight last night.
In the last few weeks, daily protests have seemed calmer and have not escalated to the levels they did in the first couple weeks with riot police. But in the last few days, actions have started to escalate again, especially when there are smaller crowds and later at night.
Six police officers in riot gear arrested the two protesters who were face-down in the street.
“If you are on the sidewalk, you will be arrested,” officers told the protesters.
Less than 30 protesters were at the intersection and all had remained on the sidewalk during the confrontation that lasted more than 30 minutes.
A 17-year-old girl on the south side of Broad and High Street was also taken into police custody after being pulled from the sidewalk.
Officers continued to block off the intersection and brought out tow trucks in an attempt to tow vehicles that were parked on High and Broad Street.
After another 15 minutes of back-and-forth verbal conflict between protesters and riot officers, officers made their way back down Broad Street toward their vehicles before leaving the area around 12:45 a.m. They then positioned themselves on the east side of the Statehouse in police cruisers.
By 1:30 a.m., most of the remaining protesters had left the area as rain drizzled down on the asphalt.
Earlier in the evening, the same group of protesters were outside the Columbus Police Headquarters on Marconi Boulevard. They said they had received a tip from a friend that a member of their group had been pulled over around 10:20 p.m. at the intersection of Main and High Street.
The protesters then took off toward Main Street.
At the scene, there were five cruisers who had surrounded the man’s vehicle. As protesters approached, the officers left. They took his vehicle with them.
“Let’s block the streets,” said Christina McDaniel, leader of the newly formed Underground United organization, which split from the group Black Freedom. “If you are on bail or bond, do not get arrested tonight. Do not block the street.”
McDaniel was arrested last Tuesday during another confrontation with police officers where protesters allege the officers were targeting Black women organizers.
After an attempt to block the street with their bodies, protesters then pulled nearby traffic cones and road closed signs to the intersections of High and Main Street and High and Rich Street before walking back onto the sidewalk.
“They can’t arrest us if we’re on the sidewalk,” several of the protesters shouted.
Moments later, five cruisers showed up, and then 15 more, including arrest vehicles.
Officers in the first five cruisers began pulling traffic cones off the street and back onto the sidewalk at both intersections before returning to their vehicles.
Protesters shouted at the officers, who stayed in their vehicles for several more minutes before leaving.
Once officers were out of sight, protesters returned the traffic cones back to both intersections and made their way down the sidewalk to Rich and High.
As they walked, close to 15 cruisers and at least five arrest vehicles blocked off High Street between Rich and Main.
“Arrest crew, let’s go! Where is my arrest crew? Where are my arrest vehicles?” one sergeant said as soon as his team arrived on the scene.
Several officers were carrying guns that appeared to contain wooden or rubber bullets. One officer then pointed at a Black man on the sidewalk.
“You’re coming with me,” he said. “You’re under arrest.”
Protesters asked why the man was under arrest, and the officer said because he had been blocking traffic.
All protesters were on a construction-zone sidewalk that was blocked off with orange traffic dividers. Officers told the protesters that they needed to leave the scene or else they would be “under arrest for resisting his arrest.”
Officers then arrested the man and attempted to arrest a white woman, who fell on the ground in the process, before protesters demanded over megaphones that because they were on the sidewalk, they couldn’t be arrested.
“Let the rest of them come through. Let the rest of them come through. They’re on the sidewalk,” McDaniels told the officers.
Most of the protesters made their way onto the concrete sidewalk away from the construction area.
Earl Louis Jones, leader of Black Freedom, remained on the construction sidewalk.
“Why haven’t you changed? Why aren’t you changing?” he asked the six officers standing in front of them, two with wooden bullet guns.
“It’s a process” an officer said, smiling and shaking his head at the ground.
“I’ve been waiting 21 years and still you haven’t changed,” Jones said.
Moments later, the sergeant told officers to return to their vehicles. The 20 cruisers then turned on all of their lights and sirens.
Protesters remained on the sidewalks and did not leave until officers left the scene around 11:40 p.m. on Sunday night.