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Wet Weather Doesn't Damper Spirit Of Protesters In Downtown Columbus

Jessica Smiley
Nick Evans
Jessica Smiley

Sporadic downpours didn’t entirely dampen demonstrations in downtown Columbus, which entered a second week on Thursday.

In honor of the George Floyd memorial service in Minneapolis, protesters staged an eight minute die-in. The mass of people more than a hundred strong laid face-down on the still wet pavers at the foot of the Ohio Statehouse steps.

Afterward, two protesters sang the black national anthem—"Lift Every Voice And Sing"—through a bullhorn.

That did it for Jessica Smiley. When the singers finished, she went to the bullhorn and told the crowd she was there for her daughter. She explained one of the things she's been struggling with is that, even at just 12 years old, her daughter understood exactly what happened to Floyd.

“I just explained to her what happened, what she saw, and what it meant, and then all I could do is ask her how it made her feel,” Smiley says. “And I think the reason why a lot of us are here is when our children have seen that, their answer is, 'Well that’s wrong—no human deserves to die that way.'"

Protesters marching up High Street.
Credit Nick Evans / WOSU
Protesters marching up High Street.

The afternoon rain still dripping from her hair, Smiley explained how much it means to her that so many decided to show up and stick around despite the bad weather.

“It feels to me like we’re doing the right thing,” she says. “It makes me feel like I literally have the entire world behind me and beside me.”

Smiley wants to remain optimistic about the possibility for reform in Columbus, but she cautions, “it's bigger than police brutality.” She says the city needs to create more opportunity in black communities, and give the people demonstrating in the streets a seat at the table.

“Please talk to us,” she says. “We have plans. It’s not just passion and anger and yelling. We want to see change and we are actually part of the change, it’s not ideas, we actually have it on paper. We have a plan and we would love to be part of it.”

Later, as rain began falling, demonstrators poured onto High Street and marched to the Franklin County Courthouse. Despite blocking traffic, the demonstration remained peaceful throughout.