Statement from Pro Tem Elizabeth Brown on First Amendment Rights, Demilitarization
[COLUMBUS, OH] The following statement can be attributed in
full, or in part, to President Pro Tem Elizabeth Brown:
"Meaningful change to safeguard Black lives in Columbus is
urgent. We must move faster, and as we do so, the Columbus Division of Police
must respect through their actions the paramount role that First Amendment
rights play in a healthy, safe, and free society.
"Frankly, the importance of the First Amendment is so great
that safeguarding these rights should be basic. What is harder is the critical
and arduous work ahead to change policing in our city and leave Columbus better
than we found it for the next generation. I am concerned that this
straightforward work of respecting free speech continues to present a challenge
for the Division of Police when much harder work lies ahead.
"I support the organizers in our city’s streets expressing
their First Amendment rights not just in the service of the demand for change,
but also in the celebration of Black lives. I believe that meaningful change
starts with the central question, 'How do we keep every resident safe?' We know
the current and long-standing system isn't doing that. The answers and the path
forward for our community lie in the voices of those who are fighting to be
heard right now. We all must listen.
need to talk about the tools our police department uses. We cannot build a
paramilitary operation and expect officers employed by it to keep the peace.
The presence of police should never look and feel to residents like we are at
war. That is why, as chair of the council’s Finance Committee, I plan to hold
hearings to update our purchasing code, which currently allows the Columbus
Division of Police to buy equipment that only belongs in the hands of military
operations. We will hold these police demilitarization hearings before the July