On the weekend of Sept. 3, the people of Columbus took to the streets to condemn the senseless killing of Donovan Lewis by Columbus police. The actions were organized by Justice, Unity and Social Transformation; the Downtowners; and the Party for Socialism and Liberation, among other organizations.
Lewis was lying in bed at 2:30 a.m. on Aug. 30 when police barged into his room and shot him in the stomach before he had enough time to get up. Bodycam footage makes it apparent that Lewis posed no threat to CPD, yet the cops demanded he crawl onto the floor after shooting him. When Lewis was unable to do so, CPD handcuffed him. Soon afterward, he was pronounced dead at the hospital.
This act follows a string of shootings carried out by CPD — this is the third shooting involving CPD in the past two weeks and the sixth of 2022 alone.
On Sept. 2 at around 6 p.m., approximately 250 people gathered outside of the CPD headquarters, chanting “Say his name, Donovan Lewis” and “No justice, no peace.” At that demonstration, Lewis’ family and friends came to speak in his memory. They emphasized that Lewis was a great man who deeply cared about his community and those around him, and was a kind individual who loved his siblings and parents. Lewis was also a musician and creative, sharing his beautiful art with those around him. Lewis did not deserve what happened to him, they emphasized.
Following these messages, everyone moved to the steps of the police station, rallying behind Lewis’ family who stood atop the steps with a banner. Community members spoke about the broader systemic issues resulting from police brutality. Speakers also highlighted that the police do not have the interests of the community at heart. Police terrorize our communities and divert funding from important, lifesaving resources like affordable housing and health care.
One speaker pointed out how he has voted every year of his life. Yet, these issues of police brutality continue to persist. Everyone who shared agreed that voting is not enough, and speakers also demanded an end to qualified immunity. After these speeches, community members began marching behind a banner with the names of all people killed by police terror in the state of Ohio since 2000 — a list curated by Ohio Families Unite Against Police Brutality. Many demonstrators found the names of their loved ones on the banner and took pictures with them.
The following day on Sept. 3, more than 150 people gathered again to continue to protest the unjust killing of Lewis. Community organizers from Akron, Ohio, and as far as Liverpool, England, came to Goodale Park in solidarity with the people of Columbus. After listening to some of Lewis’ music, speakers testified to the atrocities of police brutality in the United States. They denounced the media’s portrayal of Lewis as a delinquent, troubled man who deserved to die. It is clear that the mainstream media denies the humanity of Black people and the gravity of systemic issues that disproportionately afflict Black people in the United States.
A community organizer from J.U.S.T. spoke to the need for unity and community organization against police brutality and the unjust structures of capitalism more than ever: “Power comes from unity within the community. We must each play a part to break down these structures of the capitalist system. We have real aspirations of getting change done … I am tired of seeing people’s names as hashtags … I’m tired as hell, but I’m still out here because this matters.”
After the speeches, people began to march towards the Ohio State University campus, chanting “Indict! Convict! Send these killer cops to jail! The whole damn system is guilty as hell!” Community members grabbed the attention of many passersby attending a football game, calling them to action in response to the killing of Lewis. At the end of the march, people gathered again to share some parting words. Community organizers emphasized the importance of everyone’s presence at these actions: Every individual has something they can contribute to the fight against police brutality, racism and capitalism.
The people of Columbus organized a final time this weekend at the Ohio Statehouse on Sept. 4. Attendees came to show solidarity with Lewis’ family, who stood toward the front of the crowd. Organizers listed the community’s demands:
- Immediately fire and arrest Police Officer Ricky Anderson. Divert his pension to the Lewis Family.
- End the execution of late-night warrants. No warrants between 12:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m.
- A meeting between the family and the Chief of Police Elaine Bryant, Mayor Andrew Ginther and public safety Director Robert Clark must take place — face-to-face.
- There must be an independent investigation, in addition to that being performed by the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, into the murder of Donovan Lewis.
- End qualified immunity.
- Divert funding and resources to mental health services and grassroots organizations that empower and enable social services.
- The use of a police K9 to be strictly prohibited in cases where a warrant is being served for non-drug offenses.
Speakers attested to the need to end qualified immunity, fulfill the list of community demands and fight back against inaccurate media portrayals of Lewis’ character. “There is a huge need to end qualified immunity and it starts with the state and eliminating laws that protect the police,” one participant called JJ said.
State Representative and demonstrator Latyna Humphrey said, “I am here because I do not believe in police violence terror or brutality. What happened several days ago was completely unacceptable. I am out here supporting Mr. Lewis and the rest of my constituents who may have had any horrible connection with police brutality.”
David Harewood, a community organizer began the action with a personal anecdote on how police brutality impacted his life: “I left organizing for the same reason I got into it, which was in between the pattern of a questionable or outright murder by CPD, all of the suspects usually Black, usually young, usually in the back, were dying. When one of them [my friends] threw themselves in the river, Amber, I had to come back. CPD was usually killing someone every three months, usually young, usually Black, usually under 21 … The pattern is that they [CPD] cover for these murders. So what’s left to us is to tell the story of this young man [Lewis] and how he was robbed of his life, despite the context of CPD killing people, usually young, usually Black, usually in the back.”
Afterward, another speaker came forward with her personal connection to police brutality in Columbus: “In 1968, my mother’s father was murdered by CPD. It was a murder then, and now in 2022, it is a murder now … He [Lewis] did not have the ability to surrender to authorities nor did he have the ability to rehabilitate himself if that was the case … I believe in our people, I believe in our community, and I will fight for our right to lay in bed if that’s what we so choose to do.”
Following these speeches, everyone marched several blocks down the street and around the perimeter of the Statehouse. People took to the streets and chanted, “Black Lives Matter!” and “Justice for Donovan Lewis” in spite of the rainy, cloudy weather.
Ramon Obey II, an organizer from J.U.S.T., concluded the action with another call for unity in the fight against police brutality, racism and capitalism: “We are building the necessary community to stand up against the structural racism we face. We can only do that by uniting. We all have a skill or a talent that can be used in this fight. We are all needed individuals in this fight. This is the biggest movement that everyone can be a part of. We can give five minutes to this movement that will save our lives in the long run.”
CPD has killed countless Black people — Ma’Khia Bryant, Casey Goodson Jr., Andre Hill, Miles Jackson, Tyre King — the list of victims is far too long. One of the community organizers captured the overall sentiment of the weekend’s actions in a speech she wrote in honor of Lewis: “The basket of apples is rotten. The apples have rotted their way through the basket and the stench of their negligence is dripping on the feet of Black youth … All of the apples are rotten. Justice for Donovan.”
Feature photo: Protesters demand justice following the police killing of Donovan Lewis in Columbus. Liberation photo