Columbus police ‘ran amok’ during BLM protests, the judge ruled

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Police in the Ohio capital have been ordered to stop using tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets against nonviolent protesters after a federal judge ruled that officers were running ‘amok’ during BLM protests last year.

The protests shocked the Midwestern city last summer, when some landed in riots – in which businesses were destroyed and looted and so violent that the city’s mayor issued a six-night curfew.

The governor also called on the National Guard to address the violence, with rioters throwing things at the police.

Yet Judge Algenon Marbley released an 88-page advisory Friday describing the actions of the Columbus police during last summer’s protests as “ the sad story of agents clothed with the awesome power of the state, who have run wild. ‘.

Columbus police have recently been in the spotlight after an officer shot 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant last month after showing on body cameras that she tried to stab two women a little earlier.

Marbley’s ruling was in response to a federal lawsuit filed by 26 protesters who claimed they were targeted by police without provocation from May last year when they protested the murder of George Floyd by police.

Judge Algenon Marbley released an 88-page advisory Friday saying Columbus police were 'running amok' during last year's BLM protests

Judge Algenon Marbley released an 88-page advisory Friday saying Columbus police were ‘running amok’ during last year’s BLM protests

Many of the protests were peaceful, city and state officials said.  And Columbus Deputy Police Chief Jennifer Knight even marched with protesters at a rally last June

Many of the protests were peaceful, city and state officials said. And Columbus Deputy Police Chief Jennifer Knight even marched with protesters at a rally last June

In his preliminary injunction, Marbley ruled in favor of the protesters, saying that most of the participants peacefully protested or observed when they fell victim to such non-lethal responses from agents.

“Many of these cases of violence were without provocation or were arbitrary and indiscriminate,” Marbley wrote.

“There is a mountain of evidence that some protesters were confronted with less lethal ammunition while trying to obey police orders to leave the demonstrations.”

Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, said at the time that rioters during the summer protests had attempted to destroy and destroy city properties, set fire to buildings and vehicles, and break into businesses.

“Our town has had enough,” he said Fox 8.

Judge Algenon Marbley has ruled in favor of protesters who have filed a federal lawsuit against the city.  In his preliminary injunction, he ordered police to stop using tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets against nonviolent protesters

Judge Algenon Marbley has ruled in favor of protesters who have filed a federal lawsuit against the city. In his preliminary injunction, he ordered police to stop using tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets against nonviolent protesters

But now, in responding to protests or riots in the future, the Columbus police are now instructed to do so stop using some of their earlier tactics, including rubber bullets, pepper spray, and tear gas.

The judge noted that his order only applied to nonviolent protesters who do not harm people or destroy property, so police presumably still have some leeway should the crowd get out of hand.

Marbley also said the police cannot inflict pain to punish or deter protesters and must ensure that body-worn and cruiser cameras are working and that badge numbers are visible even when officers are wearing riot gear.

He also said individuals who clearly identify themselves as reporters, medics or legal observers should be given the opportunity to record protests and help injured people.

The federal lawsuit concerned the city’s response to protests that began in late May following the death of Floyd by Minneapolis police, Derek Chauvin, who was convicted last month of killing the black man.

Columbus’s protests lasted several days in downtown, near Ohio State University, and in other parts of the city.

The first night, protesters smashed windows at the Ohio Statehouse and downtown businesses.

In a separate episode, U.S. Representative Joyce Beatty was hit by pepper spray when fighting broke out towards the end of a demonstration in May.

The lawsuit, filed in July on behalf of more than two dozen protesters, claimed monetary damages for injuries sustained in clashes with police following Floyd’s death.

Earlier this year, a multi-day hearing took place for Marbley.

The trial described peaceful protesters and bystanders being beaten, shot with wooden and rubber bullets, and unlawfully arrested during protests in late May and June.

Columbus's protests lasted several days in downtown, near Ohio State University, and in other parts of the city.  The first night, protesters smashed windows at the Ohio Statehouse and downtown businesses

Columbus’s protests lasted several days in downtown, near Ohio State University, and in other parts of the city. The first night, protesters smashed windows at the Ohio Statehouse and downtown businesses

The lawsuit, filed in July on behalf of more than two dozen protesters, claimed monetary damages for injuries sustained in clashes with police following Floyd's death.

The lawsuit, filed in July on behalf of more than two dozen protesters, claimed monetary damages for injuries sustained in clashes with police following Floyd’s death.

Protesters can be seen raising the finger of police officers while patrolling an area in Columbus last June;  a judge said police response should become more restrained in dealing with non-violent protesters in the future

Protesters can be seen raising the finger of police officers while patrolling an area in Columbus last June; a judge said police response should be more restrained in dealing with non-violent protesters in the future

Chief prosecutor Tammy Fournier Alsaada, a community activist, was sprayed with pepper spray without provocation after being allowed to walk through a police line to discuss the arrests of some protesters, the lawsuit said.

Another prosecutor, Terry Hubby Jr., testified that he joined a May 29 protest and was hit by a non-lethal police projectile that shattered his knee, requiring surgery and the insertion of 20 pins and a plate.

Video of the incident showed officers firing the projectiles while loud police ordered them to disperse.

Columbus police have been in the spotlight lately after a rookie officer shot 16-year-old Ma'Khia Bryant (above) last month after showing on body cameras that she tried to stab two women a little earlier.

Columbus police have been in the spotlight lately after a rookie officer shot 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant (above) last month after showing on body cameras that she tried to stab two women a little earlier.

“In other words, there was no time for protesters to respond,” Marbley said.

Police have also testified for Marbley about dealing with chaotic and threatening situations.

“People came up to us with bottles and opened them and threw unknown liquids over us, screaming in our faces,” Officer Anthony Johnson said, according to court documents.

However, Marbley found that the evidence showed that the police overreacted.

“ The video and testimonials presented by the plaintiffs suggest that police have used physical violence, tear gas and pepper spray against peaceful protesters without provocation, and that city officials have done nothing or not enough to condemn and correct these actions, ” said the judge.

The city opposed the lawsuit, arguing that the police have since changed their policies to carry out most of what the protesters had demanded.

Elected officials have constantly criticized the 1,900 police station.

Mayor Andrew Ginther and city attorney Zach Klein – both Democrats – last week invited the Justice Department to investigate the police for “ shortcomings and racial inequalities ” in recruiting, hiring, and using force, among other categories.

“We need to change the culture of the Columbus Division of Police,” the letter said, echoing the language Ginther has used for years.

More recently, the mayor has said that the division’s next police chief should be a “change agent” coming from outside the department.

“Last summer, the city faced extraordinary circumstances not seen in more than two decades,” Ginther said in a statement Friday.

“Today’s ruling tells us we failed to respond.”

In January, interim Columbus Chief Thomas Quinlan was forced to leave after Ginther said he had lost faith in the chief’s ability to make the necessary changes.

Subsequent protests that took place without confrontation illustrate the city’s commitment to the types of changes the judge has ordered, he said.

Klein issued a statement saying that Marbley’s order underscores the need for federal overhaul and reflects the city’s belief that “ nonviolent, peaceful protesters should be respected and that unnecessary and excessive force should not be used against them. ”

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