Yesterday a Franklin County jury convicted 3 QPOC Black and Trans activists on six misdemeanor counts of “disorderly conduct” and “failure to obey” from a 2017 Columbus Pride protest of police violence, violence against trans women and marginalization of people of color within the LGBTQ community.
On June 17, 2017 a week after a similar protest at Capital Pride in Washington, D.C. that delayed the Pride parade for hours, a group of 10 people blocked the Columbus Pride parade. The participants, who said they were unaware of the D.C. action, wanted to protest the June 16 acquittal of the Minnesota police officer who killed Philando Castile during a traffic stop. The group also hoped to raise awareness about the violence against and erasure of black and brown queer and trans people, and in particular the lack of safe space for black and brown people at Pride festivals”
During the demonstration, the protesters linked arms and stepped into the street and refused to move despite numerous warnings by the police. Wriply Bennet, Kendall Denton, Ashley Braxton and Deandre Miles — were duly arrested.
After refusing a plea bargain consisting of no jail time and doing community service. Yesterday the jury convicted Bennet of disorderly conduct, failure to comply with a police officer’s orders and resisting arrest; Braxton of disorderly conduct and failure to comply; and Denton of disorderly conduct.
Deandre Miles, the fourth person arrested on June 17, faces a felony charge and will be tried separately. He’s charged with aggravated robbery, accused of jumping on a police officer’s back during the incident and reaching for her gun.
During the trial, prosecutors argued that Bennet, Braxton and Denton interrupted the Pride parade as it moved past Columbus City Hall and that they ignored repeated police commands to move back onto the sidewalks.
“These orders were given as officers arrived … and were given throughout this incident,” Prosecutor Isaac Rinsky told jurors in closing arguments.
But instead of following police orders, Rinsky said, Denton pushed forward against officers, while Bennet continued to lock arms with other activists. Braxton pulled away from a police officer as he tried to subdue her, the prosecutor said, causing the officer to injure a knee.
It’s not a surprise how we’re going to respond to certain events,” Sgt. Weiner said, referring to CPD’s standard protocol, an “Action-Response Use of Force Continuum,” which he explained is public information. He also said police presence and verbal commands to move are forms of de-escalation and that charges by the protesters that they did not try to de escalate the situation are unfounded.
Protesters and groups such as Black Lives Matter, No Justice, No Pride and GetEqual are making demands of Stonewall Columbus, including: an official call for charges against the #BlackPride4 to be dropped; ask for an investigation by the Department of Justice into CPD’s “use of force against people of color”; pay for the #BlackPride4′s legal fees; and hire community-based security for future events.
To date, Stonewall Columbus has not agreed to any of the demands.