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City Council Will Work With Activists To Change Columbus Policing

Esther Honig
Protestors gather outside City Hall to demand independent investigations into recent police involved shootings and a change in Columbus policing tactis.

After protesters took over a city council meeting last week, council members reached out to leaders from the local organization, People's Justice Project to establish a negotiation. 

On Monday at the steps outside City Hall, members of the local organization People's Justice Project were joined by all seven members of the Columbus City Council.

Before a crowd of more than one hundred protesters, the groups announced that they'd reached an agreement: protesters will not disrupt council meetings and in exchange city council will work with organizers to re-evaluate the summer policing program, also known as the Community Safety Initiative.

Leader for People's Justice Project, Tammy Fournier Alsaada, says the agreement is one step in the right direction.

"But if we feel like that they're not working with us in good faith then we plan to come back and to continue to pressure city leaders," said Alsaada.

The Community Safety Initiative, or CSI, was started in 2005 under former Mayor Michael Coleman. For about 12-weeks each summer extra police are sent to patrol high crime areas. Columbus Police say the program helps reduce violence throughout the city; community activists argue that the program targets low-income, communities of color.

Protesters have called for an end to the CSI ever since the fatal police involved shooting of Henry Green last Spring--Green was approached by plainclothes officers on patrol with the CSI in the South Linden neighborhood.

According to an eyewitness, the officers who shot Green did not identify themselves or give him the chance to respond. Police say officers opened fire when Green didn't comply with orders to drop a handgun he was holding.

One of the protester at Monday night’s demonstration, Emily Shaw is skeptical that council members have the leverage necessary to reform the Community Safety Initiative.

"There's just the history of police departments and police unions having more power in their cities than city councils or the people who live there," said Shaw.

Tammy Fournier Alsaada said they are still in discussion with city council about how they will begin to evaluate the CSI. Meanwhile, the group, together with protesters, continues to seek support for other demands.

“Our actions and our call for justice is not just directed at City Hall. It's directed at Columbus Police Department, it's directed at Ron O'Brien's office, it's directed at the Mayor.”

Among other demands, People’s Justice Project is calling for an independent investigation of the police involved shooting of Henry Green and the shooting 13-year-old Tyre King last month.

So far County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien has refused that request.