In solidarity with communities in Columbus advocating for greater police accountability and as witnesses of police brutality in the City of Columbus, Equality Ohio takes great pride in endorsing Columbus Issue 2, a charter amendment to establish a Civilian Police Review Board and create an Inspector General for the Columbus Division of Police to conduct independent investigations into police misconduct.
The LGBTQ+ movement is in a time of recognition that our movement is built on standing up against police violence. In 1969 at the Stonewall Inn, LGBTQ+ activists protested against police who brutally attacked black trans women and anyone else who was not perceived to fit into cisgender straight white society. We continue to see history repeated.
This summer, advocates for justice and police accountability took to the streets around the world to protest the violent killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police in Minneapolis and Louisville. We are still awaiting the outcome of the case against George Floyd’s murderers, but in the case of Breonna Taylor, we know that justice was not served.
We know that Columbus is not immune to police violence and that many times, the Columbus Division of Police has been the perpetrator of such violence. We have also seen that when Columbus police officers do commit violence against residents of our city, they have experienced little to no accountability.
These demonstrations also remind us in the LGBTQ+ community here in Columbus of a not-so-distant-event in our local history. Three years ago, at Columbus Pride, four Black LGBTQ+ leaders in our community were assaulted by police in the middle of the march route. They were peacefully asking for a moment of silence to remember the killing of Philando Castille by police in Minnesota, and the subsequent acquittal of the officer who murdered him.
This event and its aftermath brought to light the racism that continues to exist within the LGBTQ community and shows that being a member of one marginalized community does not exempt white LGBTQ+ people from the privilege that accompanies being white. Since the 2017 Columbus Pride incident, Equality Ohio has worked intentionally to make anti-racism an integrated part of our work, advocacy, and our regular operations. In fact, we recently unveiled our new strategic framework, which provides detailed ways in which we are working to incorporate and prioritize anti-racism into the fabric of our organization and our work.
Accountability is important. As advocates for LGBTQ+ equality here in Ohio, we know all too well that a commitment to justice and meaningful change, regardless of how sincere, is meaningless without tangible action taken to make that promise a reality. When those promises go unkept, mechanisms must be put in place to ensure that those charged with serving our communities are held accountable when they fail to do so.
To be clear, we acknowledge that this charter amendment will not fix systemic, generations-old problems in our criminal punishment system or end police violence against the residents of Columbus. No single piece of policy can.
We are hopeful it will provide the people of Columbus the opportunity to hold the Columbus Division of Police accountable for their actions and have a say in how Columbus Police operate within our city. The transparency and accountability that will come as a result of the passage of Issue 2 are benefits that residents of every other major city in the country have access to, and it is time for the people of Columbus to have those benefits as well.
Equality Ohio stands firmly in solidarity with those demanding police accountability in Columbus and urges a Yes vote on Issue 2 as part of the ongoing dialogue and process to increase police accountability.