In response to the Other Paper's business -as- usual coverage of the June 23 war protest-police altercation during Comfest, longtime Columbus activist Chris "the Anarchist" Ryan submitted a letter to the editor to set the record straight. Other Paper managing editor Dan Williams assured Ryan that it would appear in the July 5 issue. It didn't.
Except for the indie media, little has been written about police pepper-spraying war protesters and minding-their-own-business Park Street bystanders and bar patrons (which apparently is common during Last Call in the Short North). Ryan promises to continue his agitation for a full investigation of the attack and other incidents of Columbus police behaving badly.
Below is the text of the letter Chris @ sent to The Other Paper in which he challenges the "official story" put out by the Columbus Division of Police and MSM.
NOTE: After I put this up I learned that an edited version of this letter is in this week's Other Paper. I saw it in hard copy, but I can't access it online.
To the editor:
I must protest several factual inaccuracies in your article "Illegal March Halted By Pepper Spray", (Jun 28th '07 Issue, Pg 6).
1. Claiming that the "Crowd stopped traffic as it marched southward" is factually incorrect. If one examines the video shot by Bruce Duncanson, it CLEARLY shows that the protest was NOT blocking traffic. In fact, traffic was already at a standstill before the protest left the park, due to normal traffic congestion found in the Short North during any big event. If you examine the video, (go to GOOGLE, go to VIDEOS, and search for "Comfest Anti War Protest" to see it for yourself.*) you can clearly see footage of the protesters PASSING cars moving in BOTH DIRECTIONS. If we were blocking traffic you would not be able to see cars moving in both directions.
2. The police failed to attack the march while it was on High St. The reason for this has to do with the enormous traffic congestion on High St. itself. The traffic was already at a standstill on the street before the march got there, and the police themselves were blocked from easy access to High St. by the Comfest traffic jam. There were too many other cars in the way for the police to be able to easily access High Street.
3. When the protest march got to the corner of Park and Vine, at the southwest corner of the North Market, there were a row of police cars waiting there, and officers who warned us that we ought to move onto the sidewalk. As we attempted to move onto the sidewalk, the police used their CARS to drive into the protest, forcing us into the sidewalk or risk being run over by the police. I, at the tail end of the march, had been on the sidewalk for over a block before I was sprayed with chemical mace by the police at the corner of Park and Spruce, less than 50 feet from a street closing barricade. Again, a close viewing of Bruce's video shows that the demonstrators were moving off the street and onto the sidewalk when the police attacked us. This directly contradicts the police claim that their action was necessary.
4. By the time the police deployed Chemical Mace (a substance that the United States Army classifies as a Chemical Weapon), more than half of the protesters had in fact moved into the
area of Park St. that was closed to traffic and open to pedestrians, leaving the majority of people victimized by the attack being people lined up to get into the Park St. Bars. The fact that the police were directing their weapons at uninvolved persons lined up to get into the bars shows that this was a "revenge" attack, and has NOTHING to do with breaking up people blocking traffic. In fact, due to the fact that Park St. was CLOSED to traffic at the point where the police attacked the public, it makes the police's claim utterly invalid. In fact, police spokesman Ford is lying when she claims that the police had no choices.
5. Given the location of the march, and the fact that it was headed in the direction of Goodale Park, it is an easy deduction that the protest would have been back inside the COMFEST if it had be allowed to continue moving up the closed portion of Park Street for even one minute. Again, a close examination of Bruce's video shows this.
6. A quick check with Park St. club patrons shows that the Police ROUTINELY use mace to clear Park St at Last Call. Further research shows that the police employed chemical attacks at the Latino Fest earlier this year. This indicates an ongoing attitude of violence and brutality on the part of the CPD that is unacceptable and unprofessional. Further, for police spokeswomen to
claim such actions are necessary by virtue of the situations involved, when the facts contradict the claims of the police, work to verify that the police are out of control and need to be restricted. In short, the POLICE CREATED an incident, where a calmer head would have allowed the moment to pass uneventfully.
Hosing down pretty young women waiting to get into nightclubs and claiming that you are targeting an illegal march in the streets, AFTER that march was already on the sidewalk is both deceitful and disingenuous.
*For more protest footage go to Arawak City MySpace.
Video captures from peacechicken.com