Photos From Cincinnati’s George Floyd Protest Monday at the Hamilton County Courthouse
A large peaceful crowd gathered in front of the Hamilton County Courthouse at 1 p.m. Monday afternoon as part of the Young Activists Coalition’s Peaceful Protest for George Floyd.
This was the event description on Facebook: “This Monday we’ll be standing in solidarity with Black folks to peacefully protest systematic injustices and police brutality in America. Make your actions align with your posts- #blacklivesmatter *Come with your masks on and remain 6 feet apart*”
People of all ages and races stood facing the courthouse — most in masks, but not all six feet apart — where Hamilton County sheriff’s deputies stood in a line behind their riot shields. Holding signs, the protestors stretched down Main Street from Court Street to Central Parkway and erupted in unified chants: “Who do you serve? Who do you protect?,” “Hands up, don’t shoot,” and “Take a knee.” A man on a sort of Segway with a megaphone would spin through the crowd and suggest other sayings or tell people to cheer.
“We’re down here protesting because we need justice,” said Antoinette, a demonstrator who was there with her daughter and didn’t want to give her last name. “We need justice and we also wanted to bring our daughter down here to be part of this so she could see the peaceful protest and be a part of the movement and really just show her how important it is to stay together in solidarity.”
Julia Cabrera of Newport was there with her three children, all of whom had masks and goggles with them.
“Change has to start somewhere. I mean you’ve got to start them young or else they are going to be used to how people are treated and overlook it,” she said. “We need to bring attention to what is going on in the world even though it doesn’t affect us. We need to be there for the people that we love, and that have a rough life. I can’t imagine what it’s like to not feel safe in your own home. Or, I’ve gotten pulled over plenty of times by the cops and never once have I feared death because of it. So I need them to understand how important it is. We may not feel it but there are people in the world that feel it. We need to stand up for what’s right.”
People were walking through the masses offering free bottles of water. On street corners there were free jugs of milk to help people flush their eyes out in case any kind of pepper balls or other crowd dispersing gas was deployed. There was a group near the side of the Justice Center handing out free snacks.
“We actually just started off with everything in (this blue tub),” said the woman manning the area. She didn’t want to be identified but said she was at the protest “for George Floyd and the lives that were lost at the hands of the police."
“So we made like 304 bags that have bandaids, cleaning wipes, water, granola and oranges and then when we got down here people just started donating stuff and giving it away and leaving it with us,” she said.
A SWAT SUV was blocking Central Parkway and an empty Hamilton County Coroner van was blocking traffic down E. Court Street to the Justice Center, where nearly 100 arrested protestors had been held in the courtyard overnight without food, water or bathroom facilities. (In a press briefing today, Cranly confirmed that and said "There were a lot of people and limited supplies. We're not suggesting it was a pleasant experience. It was not.”)
The overall mood here was one of togetherness — many friends greeted each other from behind their signs and masks. Everyone seemed to be there for the same reason, with the same message.
Eileen Mitchell from Norwood came to the protest with a little ceramic talisman in her pocket that said “courage.” She said the spirit of protest is in her heart and soul.
“It’s my heritage. I’ve always protested. I got it from my mom and dad, although I don’t know that they attended protests,” she said. “I have made a promise to god that I would do anything if I could help end racism and gun violence. Whoa. That’s a big one. God is like, ‘What?!’ So that’s why I’m here.”
Eventually, after much chanting, Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil took a knee with protestors — a gesture many law enforcement officers across the nation have been taking... to mixed reviews. The crowd here appreciated it.
Part of a group had splintered off already to march through downtown, but at this point in the afternoon — just around 2 p.m. or so — many were still making their voices heard at the courthouse, where the phrase “The pure and wise and equal administration of the laws” is engraved across its façade.
Before leaving, we spoke with Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Pastor, who has been outspoken on social media regarding the looting and damage of local businesses as well as violence.
“I’ve been here since Friday, at the first peaceful protest that turned violent. And I decided to kind of be here every time to continue to show solidarity for peaceful protests. I think it’s my responsibility as a member of council to always be here and feel what people are feeling. To see what people are seeing. And also kind of observe. You know, sometimes you’ve got people on different sides of the aisle that may be pushing a narrative that may be true or may not be true so I always come and observe,” he said.
On Friday, Pastor Tweeted he couldn’t believe what he was seeing and got emotional in an interview with WLWT about grown-ups encouraging kids to throw bottles at cops, in addition to other violence that was unfolding that night.
This afternoon’s protest had no inkling of that. It was peaceful, organized. But the citywide curfew is once again in place tonight and has been pushed back to start at 8 p.m.
“A part of me feels like they are outside agitators,” Pastor said of those looting or antagonizing police. “I know this sounds crazy but I just do not believe Cincinnatians are doing it. I think that these are folks who do not live in the city of Cincinnati and I think they have taken advantage of the initial protests. I was there when they were throwing bottles at the cops, I know that for a fact. It was just not good. And so now we are seeing a more peaceful, more intentional, more organized event — I just don’t think (those who are engaging in criminal activity and violence) are Cincinnatians."| Photos by Hailey Bollinger