National Guard activated, moving into Columbus; curfew announced

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Saturday afternoon that the Ohio National Guard and the Ohio State Highway Patrol will be moving into Columbus to help with protests in the downtown area.

“There is a small number of violent individuals who pose a specific treat and a real threat to our law enforcement officers and to the safety of the people of Columbus and Franklin County,” DeWine said.

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther also instituted a citywide curfew which runs from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. beginning tonight. Anyone who breaks that curfew can be arrested, Ginther added.

“I understand the anger and frustration that has led to these protests and I share them,” Ginther said. “Racism and discrimination are threats to the quality of life, health, and safety of our community.”

The governor said he also understands that the vast majority of demonstrators want to be heard.

“They want to focus attention on the tragic death of George Floyd and they want to focus attention on other injustices,” DeWine said. “We always, always, always welcome such voices.”

Columbus Police Chief Thomas Quinlin said the protests have transformed from peaceful protests to riots, saying those committing vandalism and looting are overshadowing the voices of those who want their voices heard, a sentiment DeWine also expressed.

“Acts of violence cannot and will not be tolerated,” DeWine said.

John Harris of the Ohio National Guard said the guard will supplement the response from Columbus Police and will not be imposing martial law.

Harris added a special force known as the National Guard Response Force, which is specifically trained for such missions, will be moving into Columbus. He said the response force understands what the protesters are trying to do and will treat every person they encounter “with dignity and respect.”

Late Saturday afternoon, DeWine also activated the Ohio National Guard to assist in Cleveland.

DeWine released the following statement:

“At approximately 6:00 p.m., I received a call from Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson expressing serious concerns about the safety of Cleveland residents and peace officers following violent demonstrations there this afternoon. As is the case in Columbus, it is believed to be a relatively small group of violent individuals who are drowning out the voices of the many citizens who are peacefully expressing their desire for justice and change. 

“In this time of deep anger, sadness, and frustration, we stand with those who are expressing their First Amendment rights, but we will not stand for those who wish to inflict pain and cause destruction.”

Ginther commended the Columbus Police for how officers have responded to the protests so far, commending them on their restraint.

“We’re now at a point where we can no longer tell the difference between who is protesting for change and an end to racism and who has only chaos and destruction in mind,” he said.

Over the last three days, five police officers have been injured, 10 buildings looted, and approximately 100 private and public properties damaged.

Protestors have gathered in downtown Columbus Thursday, Friday and Saturday, demonstrating against police brutality after the death of 46-year-old George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis police custody on Monday. 

Saturday’s protest comes after two nights of protests in downtown Columbus that turned violent. Saturday’s protest remained largely peaceful, with police warning demonstrators to stay on the sidewalk. 

Protesters chanted ‘black lives matter,’ ‘who do you serve?,’ and ‘no justice, no peace, no racist police.’ 

Rep. Joyce Beatty told NBC4 she and Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin were pepper sprayed while trying to intervene in an incident where a protester was scuffling with police. 

On Friday, DeWine held a news conference where he talked about Floyd’s death and protesting.

“Protests expressing outrage are not only understandable, they are appropriate,” DeWine said. “Ohioans should speak out against wrongdoing. Ohioans should speak out for change . . . I ask my fellow Ohio citizens today as you gather in protest in the coming days throughout Ohio, regardless of the issue, please do so peacefully. We must not fight violence with more violence.”

Ginther told NBC4 he understands the anger.

“I think what you’re seeing is a compounding of frustration of anger, of resentment, and a lot of people who have have been personally hurt by racism and discrimination,” Ginther said. 

The mayor said he wants people to protest and to exercise their constitutional right to be heard.

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