COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus residents experienced the “tale of two responses” on Saturday from city officials, as the mayor laid out new plans to curb violence the same day police disrupted a protest calling for the resignation of city leaders.
At the beginning of the day Saturday, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther announced new plans to help reduce violent crime in the city with programs targeting youth.
“We cannot police our way out of this crisis,” said Ginther. “We need recreation and parks, health, all of our work in neighborhoods and our community, our faith community, our nonprofit partners.”
But by the evening, Columbus residents were again demanding his resignation.
“We're tired of the excuses for why nothing changes,” said Marcus Jones of the Recall Ginther Movement, a grassroots group collecting petitions to remove the mayor from office.
Ginther announced new initiatives under the city's APPS program. The mayor joined city officials, community and faith leaders, and youth to make the announcement at Milo-Grogan Recreation Center on Saturday.
He, the city's health commissioner, and the director of neighborhoods, are ramping up programs to provide opportunities for youth.
The mayor says that homicides are up 40 percent and assault with a firearm is up 244 percent from this time last year.
“But, I'll be honest with you. If we want to be the safest city in America, even one homicide is too many," said Ginther.
New programs include job readiness training and community engagement tours across the city with pop-up events.
Columbus is also launching a program called APPS ACT, or Advance Community Trust.
And they are continuing the Safe Streets initiative again this year with bike patrols in Linden, Hilltop, and the South Side.
“Safe Streets bike patrol we piloted in Linden,” explained Ginther after being asked why police are the first announcement for changes amid calls to reduce policing. “And it was so successful, the people of Linden wanted it expanded and other neighborhoods saw how successful it was. So, it is a very community-oriented policing, officers on bikes building relationships with the community.”
Meanwhile, just a few hours later, hundreds gathered at City Hall to protest the mayor and his chief of police — one group using signs to call attention to allegations against officers, and the other gathering petitions to rally for the recall of Mayor Ginther.
“The reason why we're asking for the recall of Ginther is because it's clear that he is more interested in protecting the reputation of his police department than he is protecting the community, and specifically Black and Brown communities,” said Jones who spoke at the event.
The protest was without incident until police swarmed the area with vehicles and bike patrols to remove cars parked in no parking spaces.
The Recall Ginther effort says they've collected nearly half of the 15K signatures required.
And because their first petition was rejected on a technicality, they have until July 9 to hit that mark.
Joshua Cark is coordinating volunteers for the campaign, and says though he voted twice for Ginther, it's time for a change.
"Look around the city right now,” said Clark, who grew up on the Southside. “This is the message of the city right now. We're tired, and we're not going to stop protesting until we have lasting police reform.”
Ginther, however, is confident in the work he and other city leaders are doing. He says he supports steps taken so far by council and is pledging to do more.
"I remain committed to working with them to increase oversight and accountability, and to build trust within the community," he said.