Rep. Joyce Beatty, the Ohio Democrat who was pepper-sprayed at a demonstration in Columbus on Saturday, says property destruction accompanying protests over the death of George Floyd is a “distraction to the message.”
Speaking to NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday, Beatty said she understands the sentiment that attempting to have a “healthy dialogue” about race hasn’t worked, but that “violence doesn’t work — violence either way.”
“We have to somehow make sure that we get the word out that you cannot come in and tear up buildings,” Beatty said. “When you break windows and destroy businesses and people get hurt, that’s not going to resolve the problem of why George Floyd died.”
Asked about the mobilizing of National Guard units in response to protests, Beatty said she knows they can be called in with “clear” instructions to “protect the buildings” and not “incite or engage in rioting.”
Beatty was pepper sprayed while at a demonstration in Columbus — one of the numerous protests Saturday over Floyd’s death last week while in the custody of Minneapolis police.
The congresswoman said the event started out peacefully, but that something apparently “went awry” in just seconds.
She said events took a turn after an altercation between a young woman and a police officer. “I found myself saying, ‘No this is wrong. Let’s not excite the crowd.’ Because it was almost over and it had sent a strong message,” Beatty said.
Photos posted to Twitter appeared to show parts of the confrontation.
In a sequence posted by Columbus Dispatch photojournalist Kyle Robertson, Beatty appears along with the city’s council president, Shannon Hardin, and Kevin Boyce, a member of the Franklin County Board of Commissioners.
I’m ok. Was just trying my best to deescalate the situation. https://t.co/7HtXR2os0y
— Joyce Beatty (@RepBeatty) May 30, 2020
Nearby, a young woman is knocked to the ground by a police officer and pepper-sprayed.
Hardin tweeted about the encounter and protest, saying that the city needed to investigate its use of force and change the use of techniques used to disperse crowds.
“I saw with my own eyes that 99 percent of protesters were just trying to make their voices heard, while some..individuals in the crowd were attempting to take advantage of the situation,” Hardin tweeted Saturday. “I also saw police going too far, and that’s unacceptable.”