About 800 people took to the streets of Columbus in a demonstration Saturday that began at the Ohio Capitol in support of Palestinians and Muslims in Gaza.
Four hours later, after a march north along High Street, it ended where it began, with a single arrest and no major incidents.
Columbus police attribute this situation to the city’s new approach to dealing with crowds.
“We are supporting First Amendment rights without subjection to content,” said Columbus Police Cmdr. Duane Mabry told several people on the street who asked him why the crowd, which did not have permission to march, was allowed to take to the city streets, especially given the crowds and traffic after a football game. American from Ohio State University. “This is Columbus’ version of a global dialogue.”
Chanting through megaphones, raising Palestinian flags, stopping to make speeches and occasionally sparring verbally, the crowd marched into the heart of the Short North for another roughly half-hour demonstration there.
The event, called “All for Gaza,” was sponsored by the Ohio State Students for Justice in Palestine, although Columbus police said it was made up of several groups, some of which did not want to cooperate with the agreed-upon rules.
At least one person was arrested for disorderly conduct, Columbus police say. But overall the protesters, while loud and disruptive to traffic, appeared peaceful, despite ignoring a police barricade of officers on bicycles at North High Street and Buttles Avenue and continuing down Shorth North to West 2nd Avenue.
As a woman walked by with a sign that said “You will never erase us,” a man in a Buckeyes jersey approached yelling “Israel, Israel.” This caused a group of men from the protest to pounce on him shouting insults. Others leaving the OSU game shouted “Welcome to America” and simply “Terrorists.”
Dana Garadah, 22, of Cincinnati, said her family lives in Gaza, which has been hit by a daily barrage of Israeli rockets since the Hamas-led invasion of Israel on Oct. 7.
“Our neighborhood doesn’t exist anymore,” he said. “This is nothing new to us.”
She, like others at the march, denounced Israeli bombings of innocent Palestinian civilians, American financial support for Israel and what she calls media lies about the root cause of the immediate crisis.
“You don’t have to be Palestinian to support us. You just have to be human,” he said.
When asked about the Hamas attack, he said he did not want to talk about it.
Police blocked traffic two or three blocks in front of the protesters throughout their march. After stopping at North High on West 2nd Avenue for the second rally, they eventually headed west on West 2nd, then south on Dennison Avenue and turned back onto High Street heading south.
Dentist James Ford was doing paperwork in his dental office, oblivious to the march until the commotion brought him outside to take a look.
“I’m glad they feel so passionate about their cause,” he said.
The October 7 terrorist attack by Hamas killed at least 1,400 Israelis, injured a couple thousand more and left an estimated few hundred hostages, the Israeli government says. Israel responded with intense bombing that has killed more than 4,100 people in Gaza and wounded thousands more, according to the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry in Gaza, where some 2.3 million people live along the Mediterranean Sea. .
And while both the initial terror and the Israeli response were ordered by military and government leaders, the outrage of many observers has focused on the human suffering of innocent people on both the Israeli and Gaza sides of the border.
Protesters sang several chants calling for freedom for Gaza and Palestine, including “Hey ho, Israel has to go” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” Their signs read: “Decolonize Palestine,” “End apartheid,” and “Gaza is 50% under 18.”
Columbus police had a notable presence, in helicopters, bicycles and a “Dialogue Team” of six police officers, uniformed officers with light blue vests trained in conflict resolution and de-escalation, their purpose was to keep the lines of communication open with the organizers to avoid problems. However, an organizer with a megaphone told officers to move out of sight of him and repeatedly told protesters to ignore police.
That’s exactly what protesters on High Street and Buttles Avenue did. When the black SUV leading the procession, adorned in the black, green and red colors of Palestine, turned left toward Goodale Park at a blockade of two rows of Columbus Police officers on bicycles across the road, those on foot ignored an earlier argument with police about turning around. there and continued north on High.
Bars, restaurants and sidewalks in the Short North were packed with Ohio State fans celebrating the Buckeyes’ victory over Penn State and watching protesters pass by. Police expressed concern that clashes could break out between those blocking High Street traffic and the increasingly crowded sidewalks approaching the OSU campus and the post-game exodus.
There have been other anti-war protests in Columbus, including just days after the Hamas attack, some of them organized by the same group Students for Justice in Palestine in the state of Ohio.
On Monday night, hundreds of people supporting Gaza and Palestine flooded a Columbus City Council meeting.. Although the council allowed more speakers from the group and longer speaking times than normally allowed, the meeting was adjourned twice, including once after some of those present became disruptive during the session. Council members spoke with leaders and outspoken members of the group, who eventually left.
On Saturday, police followed the advice of visiting Ohio State professor Clifford Stott, whose specialty is mass psychology, protest violence, riots and police legitimacy and use of force. Stott called the protesters “law-abiding and pretty good at regulating themselves.”
Officer Greg Peters, one of the conflict resolution officers, said most of the group “are excited to be here and want their message to be heard.”
“What we don’t want to do is have a conflict,” Peters said.
Rhetoric and violence
On Friday, the Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim advocacy organization, defended Ohio Rep. Munira Abdullahi, the state’s first and only Muslim lawmaker, who was the lone dissenting vote. in a recent House resolution expressing support. for those in Israel who suffered after the October 7 terrorist attack. Abdullahi came under harsh criticism for her vote, with some claiming, incorrectly, that she supports Hamas.
“The anti-Muslim hate rhetoric directed at Representative Abdullahi is deeply troubling,” said Victoria Hickcox, CAIR-Ohio Outreach Director. “This type of vitriol is what has led to a sharp increase in anti-Muslim violence against our community and anyone who speaks out for Palestinian human rights.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI say there have been increasing reports of threats against Jewish, Muslim and Arab communities in the wake of the war between Hamas and Israel, and that the federal government will investigate and prosecute those who commit hate crimes.
Joseph Czuba, 71, faces first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and other charges after police say the homeowner fatally stabbed Muslim boy Wadea Al-Fayoume, 6, and injured seriously injured the child’s 32-year-old mother. Hanaan Shanin, in a brutal knife attack on October 14 at her rental home in a Chicago suburb that was a hate crime.
On Saturday morning, Detroit police were investigating the stabbing death of Samantha Woll, 40, president of the Isaac Agree Synagogue in downtown Detroit. The politically connected Woll was found dead outside her home in the city’s Lafayette Park neighborhood. The Detroit Free Press reported.