Columbus police deploy pepper spray during afternoon protest


COLUMBUS (AP) — The mayor of Ohio’s capital city defended police use of pepper spray on protesters at a weekend rally, action that came less than a week after the use of such spray was curtailed.

The spray was used Sunday afternoon after police say protesters moved from sidewalks to the streets in downtown Columbus and refused to disperse.

“We’re not talking about peaceful protests,” said Columbus police spokesman Sgt. James Fuqua. “We’re talking about demonstrators who are committing illegal acts.”

Mayor Andrew Ginther tweeted Sunday that the city encourages and respects peaceful protests, “but aggressive acts that put police and protesters in danger cannot be tolerated.”

Some protesters said the use of the spray was unwarranted and police overreacted.

“Some people got their cars blocked in for maybe five, 10 minutes at top, but they got escorted through,” Dejuan Sharp told WCMH-TV. “It’s nothing where this problem with all these cop cars to be out here, nothing for that.”

Columbus and cities nationwide and around the world have experienced multiple protests against racism and police brutality since George Floyd died at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer last month.

On June 16, Ginther issued an order prohibiting police use of tear gas and limited use of pepper spray to clear streets and disperse peaceful demonstrators.