COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin says he, Franklin County Commissioner Kevin Boyce and Congresswoman Joyce Beatty were sprayed with mace or pepper spray during a protest in downtown Columbus Saturday morning.
Council President Hardin tweeted a video with Rep. Beatty saying that they are okay, and called on people on both sides of the protest to remain calm.
Beatty said in an interview later Saturday that the pepper spray was “prolific.”
“I don’t remember hearing anyone saying, ‘Move or we’re going to pepper spray,’” Beatty said. “Councilman Hardin got the brunt of it and he was in the middle of the sidewalk.” She added that she didn’t think the pepper spray was necessary.
“I heard no warning,” she said. “Obviously if someone had said and held up a pepper spray and said, ‘I’m gonna pepper spray,’ we would have moved. Nobody wants to be pepper sprayed, trust me.”
A spokesperson for Beatty told NBC4 that while the protest was underway, someone started scuffling with police. Police took that person down, which made other protesters angry. Beatty stepped in to try and calm the situation, and that’s when police started spraying. Hardin and Boyce pulled Beatty out of the fray.
“We understand that tensions are high. Our tensions are high as well. We are angry, and we need change. But the only way we will get change is by peaceful demonstrations,” said Hardin.
“While it was peaceful, there were times where people got off the curb, into the street, said Beatty. “Too much force is not the answer this.”
Beatty said Saturday’s protest was more peaceful than the protests on Friday night, when stores and businesses were damaged, saying she wanted to be there to support the organizers of Saturday’s protest.
“I can tell you 95 percent of the folks were amazing,” Beatty said.
She said that in the last 20 minutes she was in the area are when things began to take a turn with the arrival of police on bicycles.
“Whatever happened last night, which I am totally against – breaking into buildings, marking up city hall – I am totally against that,” Beatty said. “But there was none of that today and I kept saying to the officers, ‘Do not excite them, do not excite them.’”
Beatty added that a handful of protesters got off the sidewalks and into the streets, which is what prompted the police response.
“Before we knew it, the bikes were going up against a young sister standing next to me,” she said. “A gentleman was knocked to the ground and then you know what happened. People start pushing and shoving. I got caught in the middle of it.
Beatty said Hardin was pepper sprayed more than she was, adding Boyd was there and managed to get Beatty out of the way.