Ohio State protesters call for change after Columbus police killing of Donovan Lewis

By: - September 6, 2022 3:45 am

COLUMBUS, OH — SEPTEMBER 02: Ohio State student Devin Smith about to speak to protester decrying the death of Donovan Lewis, an unarmed black man killed by a Columbus police officer early Tuesday morning in the city’s Hilltop neighborhood, inside the Ohio Union before marching across campus to the office of the university president in Bricker Hall on the campus of The Ohio State University September 2, 2022, in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for the Ohio Capital Journal / Republish photo only with original story)

It was the third police officer-involved shooting in two weeks for Columbus, yet for some it was just a regular Friday. 

During one of many protests scheduled for the weekend, dozens of Ohio State University students gathered at the Ohio Union. 

The demonstration came after officers fatally shot unarmed Donovan Lewis after entering his home to carry out a felony arrest warrant.

Students implored the university to end their relationship with the Columbus Police Department and to acknowledge the death of Lewis.

“I’m a fourth-year (student) at this university, and there hasn’t been a year yet, there hasn’t even been a semester yet, where I have not attended a protest led by students in this community for a purpose such as this,” said Yondris Ferguson, speaker of the senate for Ohio State’s Undergraduate Student Government.

“But the million dollar question is, when is it enough?” Ferguson said. 

Ferguson was one of many people that student organizers Devin Smith and Isaac Wilson brought up as they urged the university to act. Beyond severing ties with CPD and releasing a statement regarding the Aug. 30 shooting, demonstrators called for long-term change. 

“We demand that Ohio State University play a bigger role in the Columbus community towards the prevention of these tragedies,” Smith said. “We demand the immediate firing of Officer Ricky Anderson and review of the case independent of the state (of Ohio).”

In an email, university spokesperson Christopher Booker outlined the relationship between the institution and CPD. 

“The Ohio State University Police Division (OSUPD) is the primary law enforcement agency on all of our campuses. In Columbus, we hire individual Columbus Division of Police (CPD) officers for specific services, largely traffic control on city streets for athletics events. We also have a mutual-aid agreement in place that allows our OSUPD to assist CPD off campus in certain circumstances,” Booker said. 

“Ohio State supports the right of our students, faculty and staff to peacefully express their views and to speak out about issues that are important to them. Freedom of speech and civic engagement are central to our values as an institution of higher education.”  

Dozens of students marched from the Ohio Union to Bricker Hall, the university administrative building. Meanwhile, the usually accessible building was locked, and other students continued to shuffle to class and lay in hammocks around them. 

“I would so much rather be going to class right now. I have one that I am supposed to be in, but guess what? This matters,” Smith said. “Nobody wants to be here. But we can’t be innocent bystanders of what is going on in our community.”

In a town hall Saturday hosted on the Urban One radio network, the Columbus Urban League held a panel of local and federal officials to discuss the recent shootings and allow residents to ask questions about reform. 

According to Columbus Police Chief Elaine Bryant, there were three officer-involved shootings between Aug. 22 and Aug. 30. The first occurred when officers were responding to a police chase with suspects who had weapons, however no one was struck during the shooting. The second one happened when an individual was trying to flee a traffic stop. The third one was the arrest warrant against Lewis. At least two of the incidents have been or are going to be reviewed by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

“We want to make sure that it is thorough and that they are allowed to do that without any hindrance. The public deserves that, the community deserves that,” Bryant said. “We want to make sure that this investigation is done as thoroughly as possible, but also as quickly as possible because we don’t want this to live on.”

The town hall also acknowledged the increased burdens on young people. Ohio U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Columbus, said she believes that old policing policies don’t work for the culture our communities have now. 

“Everyone is scared now. These young, black boys and men, whether right or wrong, are feeling the need to protect themselves,” Beatty said. 

Although the consensus was that change needs to happen, that may not have been the last protest for Smith and his associates.Columbus City Council member Nick Bankston told the town hall’s audience that progress was a journey, not a destination. 

“As we look at making reforms, we have to always say to ourselves ‘there is no end to this.’ We should always be wanting to be better police officers. We should always want to have a better justice system,” Bankston said. 

“We have to make sure that we roll up our sleeves and continue that fight.”

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