This summer the Columbus Police Department met peaceful protestors with wooden and rubber bullets and canister after canister of tear gas and pepper spray from police dressed in full riot gear. Immediately following the rise of these protests Columbus City Council held hearings on the demilitarization of our police force. Nearly 1000 people submitted written testimony, hundreds showed up to testify verbally in the online hearing. Overwhelmingly the testimony was in support of demilitarizing our police force and re-directing funds to programs that improve the quality of life for the citizens of our city.

Specifically NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio spoke out against the use of tear gas on protestors. Tear gas has been banned for use in warfare by the Geneva Convention, research has shown that tear gas can cause miscarriages or stillbirths when pregnant individuals are exposed. On the ground in Columbus we saw multiple reports of continuous menstrual bleeding and transgender individuals reported experiencing periods when they hadn’t had one in years after exposure to tear gas. Read more about the testimony we submitted.

Following the testimony Council President Pro Tempore Elizabeth Brown drafted an ordinance to respond to some of the feedback from residents, including reductions in police helicopters and other police assets and banning the use of tear gas with peaceful protestors. Unfortunately, this critical legislation was indefinitely tabled by a vote of 4-3 during the council meeting on September 14, 2020 with Council members Elizabeth Brown, Rob Dorans, and Shalya Favor voting against the motion to table.

On Tuesday September 22, a group of 11 organizations submitted a letter to members of Columbus City Council and Mayor Andrew Ginther urging them to deliver on their promise to reimagine safety in the city of Columbus.

The letter reads in part:

Police brutality is a reproductive freedom, reproductive justice, and LGBTQIA+ issue. At a time when the maternal mortality rate for Black pregnant women is three to four times that of white women, when the infant mortality rate for Black babies is 2.5 to 3 times that of white babies in Franklin County, and when Black transgender people report much higher rates of biased harassment and assault from police – the City of Columbus has yet to effectively decrease the law enforcement budget or pass policies to demilitarize the Columbus Division of Police, which inflicts violence and trauma upon these communities daily. In addition to the urgency of prohibiting the use of lethal, militarized police tactics, the City of Columbus should reallocate money from the overfunded police budget to city initiatives focused on addressing equitable housing, affordable, and comprehensive health care services, and programs to reduce Black infant and maternal mortality and morbidity.

The group is requesting an exact timeline in which City Council will reconsider and pass the ordinance introduced by Council President Pro Tempore Elizabeth Brown to demilitarize the Columbus Police Department.

The group additionally calls on Mayor Andrew Ginther to provide a statement explaining his administration’s position on the vote.

The 11 organizations signing onto the letter are:

  • ACLU of Ohio
  • Black, Out & Proud
  • Equality Ohio
  • Kaleidoscope Youth Center
  • NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio
  • Ohio Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
  • Ohio Women’s Alliance
  • Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio
  • Queer Partnership for Black Liberation
  • URGE: Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity
  • Women Have Options – Ohio

We urge you to join in this fight and email members of council and Mayor Ginther and demand that they take this legislation off the table and pass it quickly.

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