City Council fails vulnerable neighborhoods with decision to expand ‘Summer Safety Initiative’

SURJ Columbus led a mock funeral procession September 2016 to Mayor Ginther’s house and placed a casket and tombstones in his yard for the police killings of Henry Green and Ty’re King

COLUMBUS, OH – Organizations across the city are condemning City Council’s decision to funnel an additional $750,000 into the Summer Safety Initiative and expand the initiative to year-round, despite months of community-led meetings and marches demanding the program’s end.

Since the June 2016 shooting of Henry Green by plain-clothed police officers, local organizers with the People’s Justice Project and Showing Up for Racial Justice have mobilized to demand an end to the Summer Safety Initiative, a summer policy that increases police presence in neighborhoods deemed high in crime.

Jasmine Ayres is a community organizer who has worked on this campaign from the beginning. “I have spent the last year researching, meeting and marching, but it seems the city has not only ignored the cries of its citizens but has completely turned their back on them,” said Jasmine, who has since launched a campaign to run for Columbus City Council working with local group Yes We Can Columbus. “The city’s response is a disgrace to our city’s most vulnerable neighborhoods and is absolutely unacceptable.”

Columbus police shot 174 people between 2008 and 2015 – a figure that, despite being disproportionately high in relation to other major cities, has not resulted in substantive policy shifts.

“It’s clear that the Mayor and City Council are safe, so why can’t they invest in building strong and safe communities for Black folks and everyone else, instead of investing in more racism and state sanctioned violence?” said Tynan Krakoff, an organizer with Showing Up for Racial Justice Columbus.

Community-led actions demanding an end to violent policing initiatives that disproportionately target members of Columbus’s Black community have escalated throughout the last eight months, during which Columbus police officers reportedly killed four Black men. Actions have included a mock funeral procession to Mayor Ginther’s house, a march on City Hall demanding the demilitarization of the Columbus Police Department and a public march last Saturday demanding the city hold elected officials accountable for the murder of Jaron Thomas, a Black man beaten to death by a Columbus police officer after calling for help with a mental health crisis.

“The Mayor has heard the cries of the families of Tyre King, Henry Green and Jaron Thomas,” said Tammy Fournier Alsaada, an organizer with People’s Justice Project. “They have heard the community calling for change and they decide to double down on the aggressive policing initiatives that target poor people and people of color. We must do better. Lives are at stake.”

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People’s Justice Project is a statewide collective working under the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, to organize low income people & people of color to lead the fight against mass incarceration. For more information visit www.ohorganizing.org

Showing Up for Racial Justice Columbus is a local chapter, part of a national network of groups and individuals organizing white people for racial justice. For more information visit www.surjcolumbus.org

Yes We Can Columbus is local group working to elect progressive leaders to Columbus City Council and the Columbus School Board. For more information visit www.yeswecancolumbus.org