Protests again turn violent outside Ohio Statehouse

About one block outside the fray, a man stands in front of the Ohio Supreme Court building. Photo by Jake Zuckerman.

Protests turned violent Friday night into Saturday morning outside the Ohio Statehouse, with some demonstrators hurling rocks at police and police responding with anti-riot tactics.

For the second night in a row, people gathered in downtown Columbus to protest the death of George Floyd. Video emerged this week of a Minneapolis police officer restraining Floyd with his knee on his neck just before his death. The officer was charged with murder in the third degree Friday.

Floyd’s death is just the most recent instance of a recurring episode of a black man dying at the hands of a white police officer. People spray painted Floyd’s name, as well as Mike Brown’s, a black man shot dead by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, on boarded up windows sometime Friday. 

Following Thursday’s protests, which involved people breaking windows at the Ohio Statehouse, Ohio Theater and elsewhere, officials urged protesters to do so peacefully going forward.

Friday’s protest remained so for several hours, but by 10 p.m. the downtown area had devolved into chaos. Police sought to break up protesters into smaller groups, which led to altercations at a wide number of areas and intersections.

In one scene outside the Statehouse grounds, masked protesters threw rocks and bottles at police. Several tossed traffic cones and trash cans at a SWAT vehicle.

Helicopters circled downtown Columbus, shining floodlights on the scene. Police repeatedly used pepper spray, flash bangs and fireworks in an effort to disperse the crowd. 

“Flee the area. Chemical weapons are now being used,” police said through a speaker before deploying chemical spray on the corner of State and High streets.

Video captured protesters throwing a trash can through a window downtown. 

“No justice, no peace!” demonstrators chanted on the corner of Broad and High streets. “No racist police!”

As of 11 p.m., the Columbus Police Department placed five people under arrests, according to a post from the department. Two officers were injured by protesters throwing rocks and bricks at them. 

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther reflected on the situation in a Facebook post Saturday morning.

“Peaceful protests are a powerful way to raise your voice and demand change,” he said. “Continue to hold me and other elected officials accountable for battling racism and discrimination. Vandalism and fires, however, destroy our community.”

Similar action played out around Ohio and the rest of the country, media reports show. 

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports protesters smashed windows outside the Hamilton County Justice Center, lit fires in dumpsters, and broke several windows at Over-the-Rhine businesses. 

The New York Times reports the U.S. Department of Defense ordered the Army to prepare active-duty military units to deploy to Minneapolis as protests ripple through the city, where businesses have been set ablaze and gunfire has broken out. 

Similar scenes were reported in Atlanta, New York, San Jose, Detroit, Portland and elsewhere. 

This story is being updated. 

Jake Zuckerman
Jake Zuckerman is a statehouse reporter. He spent three years chronicling the West Virginia Legislature for The Charleston Gazette-Mail after covering cops and courts for The Northern Virginia Daily.
Tyler Buchanan
Tyler Buchanan is an award-winning journalist who has covered Ohio politics and government for the past decade. A Bellevue native and graduate of Bowling Green State University, he most recently spent 6 1/2 years as a reporter and editor of The Athens Messenger and Vinton-Jackson Courier newspapers. He is a member of the BG News Alumni Society Board and was a 2019 fellow in the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism.