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Columbus Police Charge Four Pride Protesters, But Activists Dispute Events

Esther Honig
Protestors gather outside the Franklin County Courthouse on Monday morning.

Nearly 100 protestors gathered on Monday morning outside on the Franklin County Court, demanding that charges be dropped against four protestors from Saturday's parade.

On Saturday morning, during Columbus' annual Pride festival, a small group of protesters attempted to temporarily block the parade route to hold seven minutes of silence. According to a press release written on behalf of the protestors, this demonstration was an attempt to raise awareness about violence against queer and transgender people of color.

The seven minutes represented the seven bullets that killed Philando Castile - a high profile case in a string of black men fatally shot by law enforcement.

In video captured from the parade, Columbus Police officers can be seen using pepper spray and forcing protestors to the ground. Police arrested four people that day, and on Monday announced that three individuals would be charged with disorderly conduct, failure to comply with police orders and resisting arrest.

A fourth individual, Deandre Miles, has been charged with a felony aggravated robbery. Their bail is set at $100,000. 

Columbus police say that Miles jumped on the back of an officer and reached for her gun, an incident described in various statements by police officers who witnessed the incident. While body cameras were worn by officers, police say the footage is likely to be evidence and will be unavailable until Miles' trial ends.

Ariana Steele, an organizer for the courthouse demonstration, says charges against Miles seem untrue. The protesters say Miles has no criminal history and the alleged actions contradict their intentions.

"This would go directly against the point of the demonstration on Saturday, [which] was a peaceful demonstration," says Steele.

Steele says that according to video and eyewitness accounts, police began pummeling protestors with their bikes and using pepper spray minutes after their blockade began. Police says protestors were given multiple warnings to disperse, but chose to not comply.

CJ Brazelon, who attended the courthouse demonstration, says the Columbus Pride festival is not inclusive of the LGBTQ community of color. One example, according to Brazelon: The pride flag does not include a black and brown stripe. Cities like Philadelphia, meanwhile, have chosen to include these colors in recognition of LGBTQ people of color.

Stonewall Columbus, which organizes the parade, did not respond to requests for comment.

Brazelon says the Pride festival markets the idea of an inclusive city, but Saturday's event illustrates that that's not the case. 

"People were thrown to the ground, arrested and then people in the crowd were cheering for that to [happen]," Brazelon says.