COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A group of protesters gathered early Sunday afternoon at the Ohio Statehouse.
With the crowd dispersing by approximately 2 p.m., Ohio State Highway Patrol reported there were no violent incidents Sunday.
By noon, around two dozen people arrived at the Statehouse, several armed with rifles. People with megaphones competed for the attention of those around. By 1 p.m. the crowd grew to several dozen.
By 12:43 p.m., someone showed up flying a large Biden 2020 flag.
Everyone seemed to have their own reason for being at the protest. People held signs or talked about the second amendment, lockdowns or the election. Protesters in tactical gear stood peacefully next to Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers and members of the Ohio National Guard.
John Drury, a trucker from Cincinnati with a shirt reading “dancing for peace” interacted with police and protesters alike.
“I’m here because I love to dance. It helps me, it helps people that watch me dance. I usually dance for smiles, but today I’m dancing for peace. It kind of fits the agenda,” said Drury. “People love drama, they love chaos and conflict. That’s human beings. I’m kind of different in that aspect.”
One of the armed men at the protest approached NBC4’s Arienne Robbins and introduced himself. He said the Statehouse gathering is a ‘Unity Rally’ and all are welcome. He said he carries a gun to ensure his first amendment rights.
“If you notice the armed marches, they get to say what they want and they get to get their point across,” the protester said. “This right here (his rifle) is to help ensure our First Amendment right.”
When asked if he wanted to see unity among the country moving forward, the man said, “100 percent yes.”
One of these men just introduced himself to us, he said this is a “unity” rally and all are welcome. He said he carries a gun to ensure his first amendment rights. This is obviously not the same message that some groups have put out there @nbc4i pic.twitter.com/dRuGmm6SbO— Adrienne Robbins (@ARobbinsTV) January 17, 2021
As snow fell in downtown Columbus, the crowd seemed to thin out by 1:30 p.m. and by 2:30 p.m., all was quiet on the statehouse steps.
Columbus police and state troopers prepared over the last week for possible wide-scale protests at the Statehouse. Columbus Police Chief Thomas Quinlan said Friday they will be working with the Ohio State Highway Patrol and the Ohio National Guard to ensure that protests remain peaceful.
And while there were no incidents reported with Sunday’s protest, OSHP said it will continue to be on high alert, along with the Ohio National Guard, until Inauguration Day this Wednesday.
“There will be no tolerance for illegal activity, no tolerance for property destruction, or causing harm to others, or defacing our symbols of government,” Quinlan said Friday.
Quinlan said after what we saw happen at the U.S. Capitol, they hope to be overprepared but underwhelmed.
“We can’t claim that we were, that we didn’t have advanced notice. January 6 made it very clear to everyone and any responsible police chief in this country is on notice,” he added.
People not involved in protests were asked to avoid the downtown area.