Columbus, OH (TFC) – I feel the only way to begin this article is with a quote. “The best way to take control over a people and control them utterly is to take a little of their freedom at a time, to erode rights by a thousand tiny and almost imperceptible reductions. In this way, the people will not see those rights and freedoms being removed until past the point at which these changes cannot be reversed.” These words were spoken by none other than Adolf Hitler. Many do not understand the amount of knowledge the U.S. government acquired from Hitler and all the brilliant minds he was surrounded by. Do you really think they wouldn’t use this knowledge on us? In the United States our rights and freedoms have been being stripped from us for decades, little by little up until now. Since 9/11 they have ramped up their assault on the things that once made this country great. To give one example, they have used “fear mongering” through all media in order to persuade their citizens to willingly trade their freedoms for security. Ben Franklin insisted that you deserved neither if you did. Activists in Ohio have seen this go on long enough and decided to take on a permit law employed by the Ohio Statehouse. Two or more people politically demonstrating, on Statehouse Grounds, requires a fee, application and approval from a board.
A peaceful protest in November sparked some serious debates and emotions after State Troopers physically removed the protesters leaving women injured. Instead of following the same routine by organizing a protest with FTP signs and middle fingers we decided to keep the officials as the aggressors. After a few radio shows, phone calls and social media promotion the event was questionable in size and intention due to the amount of information being delivered. The Columbus police department, State Troopers and FBI were amassed to wage war on the citizens arriving to have their voices heard. The officials went as far as releasing an article about increased security beginning the week of the protest due to potential “terror attacks”. There was another article covering metal detectors being implemented at the entry points of the Statehouse.
The event was scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. and carry on until the activists were either arrested or heard. Upon arriving, the streets were filled with Columbus Police (CPD). They were on horseback, foot patrol, bicycles, patrol cars and motorcycles. There were squad cars and mobile command units parked on side streets that surrounded the Statehouse. I can only imagine how much money they spent. Officers in full tactical gear and dress were seen walking the sidewalk around the Statehouse grounds. There were more troopers than we could count occupying the grounds, interior and parking garage. There was even a K9 unit present who was patrolling the grounds and halls. Once again I couldn’t begin to estimate the amount of money spent. Three out of four entries were blocked, funneling everyone into one door then through a new metal detector and wand dance. Undercovers followed the group around and up to roughly an hour after the activists had left. Again, more money and guns prepared to pounce at a moment’s notice on a group of people only looking for a conversation. The bicycle cops were far more cordial than they have ever been. All made eye contact, nodded their heads and asked how we were doing. It was a very strange scene taking place in Columbus Ohio that day.
The amount of activists added up to no more than fifteen at any given time but made a serious impact on the Statehouse staff and security budget. After roughly an hour of talking to each other, interviewing with mainstream media and making laps, we decided to follow the sign suggesting to, “Come on in.” Once inside there were three Troopers operating the security checkpoint’s metal detector and wand station with, what looked like, twenty or so more Troopers on the stairs and in the foyer directly behind them, all looking right at the group that walked in the door. We tried to gain entry but as soon as my phone and keys hit the basket for review we were asked to step to the side, his sergeant was coming down to speak with us. As we were all corralled into a small area awaiting the introduction we enjoyed the warmth and the company of four undercovers that walked in and stood by the exits. Once the sergeant arrived we requested a meeting with an official or board member. He said the head of security was on his way down to speak with us. Of course that was perfect. As soon as he approached the group we requested a private meeting and without hesitation he made it happen immediately. Three of us were then led to a conference room. But, not until the official requested the sergeant to join us and his six foot six mountain of a man trooper who was carrying a video camera.
Once inside the conference room, the troopers and the official stayed standing so I did as well. The official came armed with a smile and a folder listing the Revised Codes that he referred to as laws and the application one must fill out to practice freedom of speech on the Statehouse grounds. After a discussion consisting of our request to find remedy and letting him know we will never pay for a permit we were given the name of the person to contact and the date of the next board meeting. We were told we would be able to address the board at that meeting with our concerns about the permit. With the chairman of the board’s name and a board meeting on the calendar, we parted ways with a handshake. Once back out in the corridor we asked if we could tour the building and to our surprise he had zero problems with it. We stayed inside for a few more minutes then exited the building to brief the group of dedicated activists of the meeting’s details.
As we gathered on the sidewalk outside of the Statehouse we noticed that the CPD was nowhere to be found. One can only assume that after the meeting they were given the order to stand down. As we stood in front talking, the official came outside to let us know that we could put in an application, not pay, then schedule an appeal hearing. Of course that was still not acceptable, but he did not have to come outside in the freezing temperatures to reengage us about how to potentially get around the fee. That was yet another gesture of good faith and respect on his part. Another handshake was had and we left to get pizza and discuss the day’s events. While eating we noticed the four undercovers from the Statehouse were eating pizza in the same place. Two were located one table over from us and the other two were standing near the door. Eye contact was made many times throughout lunch. After about forty-five minutes they left and we continued to enjoy the hot food with conversations from new local faces and some from out of state.
We were all able to leave the event considering it a win. No one was abused, arrested, or thrown off the property. We had a meeting as we had planned. The statehouse staff clearly do not want to have a repeat of the events that transpired on Nov. 5th. They took the time to hear our concerns, and gave us a few outlets to find the solutions we are seeking. They didn’t have to do any of those things. We are now one step closer to reinstating freedom of speech and assembly at The Ohio Statehouse for all people.