Statehouse protest expected: Gov. DeWine calls out Ohio National Guard

Statehouse protest expected: Gov. DeWine calls out Ohio National

COLUMBUS — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine Tuesday activated 580 members of the Ohio National Guard to protect people and property at the Statehouse in Columbus and in Washington D.C. It comes in response to an FBI warning about militia protests targeting all 50 statehouses across the country this weekend to protest the upcoming inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden.

The activation will run from Thursday, January 14 to the 21st with 200 of the National Guard troops going to Washington D.C. where Ohio guard troops have served in previous years during other inaugurations.

When it comes to the weekend event at the Statehouse, DeWine said he is “very concerned,” given what happened last week in the Capitol Hill riot.

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“The goal is peace. The goal is protection of property and protection of people. Protection of people is always number one. That’s the goal,” DeWine said.

The governor said his comments were based on media reports of a planned protest that could be coming to the Ohio Statehouse. So far, no organized group has requested a formal permit to hold an event on the grounds.

The Statehouse is often the site of demonstrations, large and small, sometimes with several unrelated events going on at the same time on different sides of the building. The largest protests in recent history focused on gun rights, abortion rights and social justice, the latest coming in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Destruction in and around the Statehouse after the George Floyd demonstrations resulted in more than $125,000 damage to the Statehouse, most of it in broken windows. Damage throughout downtown Columbus was estimated to be more than $1 million. Some storefronts and office buildings still have plywood up covering what was smashed windows.

“People have the right to protest. They do not have the right to be destructive. They do not have the right to hurt other people. There will be enough people there from law enforcement, the National Guard. People have every  right to protest, they have every right to do it peacefully. We welcome them if they  want to do that, whatever they want to protest about. That’s 365 days a year, people have the right to do that. The First Amendment does not go on vacation, but we also saw what happened at the U.S Capitol and we are very concerned,” DeWine.

As of late Tuesday, no additional security measures were visible at the Statehouse so far. Most state lawmakers and staff members are at home and not working in or around the building due to COVID-related precautions.

There are no House or Senate hearings or sessions scheduled for the next two weeks.