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Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine: 'What Happened To George Floyd Is Tragic'

Gov. Mike DeWine at his daily coronavirus press conference on April 7, 2020.
Office of Gov. Mike DeWine

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Friday expressed “sorrow and disgust” at the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, saying the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck while he cried out for breath violated “every principle of human decency.”

DeWinedelivered his remarks after a tense night in Columbus in which protesters broke windows at the Statehouse and police officers used pepper spray on demonstrators. Hundreds turned out the heart of the city to protest the Minnesota officers’ treatment of Floyd.

“What happened to George Floyd is tragic,” DeWine said Friday afternoon. “To watch the video of his life being taken away, second by second, is horrific and will be seared on every American’s mind until the day they die.”

Prosecutors charged the now-fired officer, Derek Chauvin, with third-degree murder and manslaughter on Friday.

The governor said he regretted not addressing Floyd’s death at his Thursday afternoon press briefing on the coronavirus. DeWine praised the Columbus Division of Police’s handling of the protests, and asked Ohio to protest without violence at demonstrations in the coming days.

“People have a right to demonstrate, they should,” he said. “In some cases, they have an obligation to demonstrate. But it’s important for them to be peaceful. We don’t want to lose lives. We don’t want to see people hurt.”

All Ohioans must denounce racism and injustice, DeWine said. The governor spoke specifically to black Ohioans at times, saying that he acknowledged pain and frustration among African American families at Floyd’s treatment.

“While Fran and I felt and feel sorrow and disgust at what we saw, we cannot fully comprehend or imagine what an African American family must feel looking at that,” he said.

Windows are boarded up at the Ohio Statehouse on Friday, May 29, 2020 after a protest over the death of George Floyd spilled onto the square.
Credit Nick Evans / WOSU
Windows are boarded up at the Ohio Statehouse on Friday, May 29, 2020 after a protest over the death of George Floyd spilled onto the square.

In his former role as state attorney general, DeWine convened advisory groups on police training and vehicle chases. His office also investigated high-profile police shootings in Cleveland and Beavercreek.

Now, as governor, he has pledged his administration will dedicate increased attention to health disparities that disproportionately affect African Americans, including higher COVID-19 mortality rates.

Given the death of Floyd and the protests in response to his death, the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus announced Friday that their members in the Ohio House and Senate plan to introduce a resolution declaring racism as a public health emergency. DeWine said he would "look at the wording of the resolution."

When asked about a tweet from President Donald Trumpthat included the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” DeWine said he disagreed with the sentiment. He said he didn’t know what affect Trump’s remarks would have on the public.

“I think it’s very important that leaders such as myself be a source of peace, stability and work to heal the divisions that we have in this country,” he said.

DeWine said Ohio Public Safety Director Thomas Stickrath updated him on the protests Thursday night, and that state officials did not discuss calling in the National Guard.

Around 400 people gathered at Broad and High Streets downtown in solidarity with Floyd. Several protesters were arrested after clashes with Columbus Police, who used pepper spray on the crowds when they began throwing water bottles, trash cans and other items. Demonstrators broke windows at the Ohio Statehouse, Ohio Theatre and nearby businesses.