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Protesters Arrested at Columbus' MLK Breakfast

Columbus Freedom Coalition/Instagram
Protesters with the Columbus Freedom Coalition interruped Mayor Ginther's speech at Monday's Martin Luther King, Jr. breakfast celebration.

Two activists were arrested during the city of Columbus' Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast on Monday morning while protesting the 2018 police killing of a black teenager.

A lieutenant with the Columbus Division of Police says Dkeama Alexis and Mia Santiago began yelling while Mayor Andrew Ginther was addressing the audience at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

Activists say the protest intended to draw attention to the killing of Julius Ervin Tate Jr., who was fatally shot by Columbus Police during a December 2018 robbery sting operation.

Lieutenant Elrico Alli says the director of the event and special duty officers asked the protesters to stop. When they refused, the officers arrested them on criminal trespassing charges.

Alli says the convention center is considered private property when rented for an event.

In a series of tweetson Monday, Ginther defended the officers who "did their job" by arresting protesters, but also said that "today and every day, it is important to defend the right to protest."

The Columbus Freedom Coalition was raising money Monday to help protesters. In a statement, the coalition said Santiago and Alexis chanted,"Justice for Julius; Julius had a dream" in "a peaceful demonstration."

In December 2018, Columbus Police said an officer opened fire after Tate, 16, pulled a gun on another undercover officer. Authorities say the sting followed a series of robberies of people responding to social media sale ads.

The department has defended the shooting, while activists have likened it to entrapment. Attorneys for Tate's family claim to have witnesses who dispute the police version of what happened.

The officer's killing of Tate also led to felony murder charges against Tate's alleged accomplice, Masonique Saunders. Ohio law allows people to be charged with murder if their criminal actions contributed to another person's death.

Saunders was later sentenced to three years in juvenile prison after pleading guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated robbery.

Clare Roth was former All Things Considered Host for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU in February of 2017. After attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she returned to her native Iowa as a producer for Iowa Public Radio.