COLUMBUS, Ohio — The year 2020 will hold for many people across the nation bittersweet memories in the wake of a once in lifetime pandemic and an escalating social justice outcry.
History played out in the streets of Columbus which became a hotspot in the reckoning and demand for change. The genesis was the raw response to the video showing George Floyd, an African American man, who was killed as former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin held his knee down on Floyd’s neck during an arrest.
Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin said what started in Minneapolis rightfully made its way to the capital city.
“That was not a policing in a Minneapolis issue, it was a policing in America issue,” he said. “It is fundamentally flawed, and we have to be about change.”
The outrage was palpable and spawned demonstrations and protests by thousands: a melting pot of longtime community organizers, college students, families and even three lawmakers, African Americans, who said their presence was a necessary show of support.
In the thick of chanting crowds, Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin, Franklin County Commissioner Kevin Boyce, and U.S. Congresswoman Joyce Beatty were pepper-sprayed.
One year since Floyd’s death, the demonstrations, the three lawmakers are reflecting on the results of the reckoning and the work that remains. U.S. Representative Joyce Beatty, who also chairs the Congressional Black Caucus said one year later, it is good to see the work isn’t being left solely to lawmakers.
“Now we have organizations like the Urban League meeting every week with more than a hundred Black and brown folks talking about change," Beatty said.
Many people thought the moment would be one of change but in 10TV's Tracy Townsend's conversation with the trio, reflecting on that time, it is clear progress is a process. In fact, this conversation took place in April days after a jury found Chauvin guilty of killing Floyd.
Congresswoman Beatty, who represents Ohio’s 3rd Congressional District (OH-03) said, she believed the jury got it right.
“At at that same time, right here in my district in our community we were fighting and marching for advancing police reform--have we done some? Yes. Have we done enough? Absolutely not,” she said.
Council President Hardin pointed to Columbus City Council’s work over the past year to impose a ban on no-knock warrants, prohibit the hiring of police officers with hate group affiliations, and the implementation of a Civilian Review Board.
Hardin also agreed with the verdict but expressed concern that his constituents are tired. “They're looking to us not just as Black elected leaders,” he said. “All of us to step up and say when is enough, enough.”
Commissioner Boyce agreed about the community’s lethargy.
“When you ask the question: “Where are we today?’ We're in the same place we were last year," Boyce said.
The local leaders said the next move is on the nation’s lawmakers in Congress with the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. The framework for legislation is civil rights and police reform through fighting police misconduct, excessive force, and racial bias in policing. It passed the House in March on a near-party line vote of 220–212. The Senate has not yet taken action on the legislation.
Congresswoman Beatty supported it and cited agreement by most in law enforcement.
“You had white police officers say we should not have chokeholds. We should not have the no-knock warrants,” Beatty said. “Now we need them to say we should be able to deal with qualified immunity, deal with a checkered past.”
All three lawmakers also agreed that there is a need for straight talk about race by more than people of color.
Commissioner Boyce called on everyone’s involvement in the conversation.
“Until we all are in that place where we're willing to go stand together then this change that we see is just not going to occur at the pace we want it to," Boyce said.