National Guardsmen, state troopers and journalists far outnumbered armed protesters and counterprotesters who turned out Sunday afternoon at the Ohio Statehouse.
Members of the Boogaloo Bois, a far-right, anti-government movement, came carrying assault-style weapons, sidearms and flags, including one that said “Liberty or Death.”
Two Ohioans with bullhorns — Dan Werts, a transgender person from Russells Point and a man who identified himself as Rocco Bianco — dominated the event. Bianco, who wore a hat that said “9/11 = Inside Job,” ranted about vaccines, voting machines, fluoride in drinking water and LGBTQ rights.
Sitting in a camp chair adorned with a transgender flag, Werts smoked cigarettes and yelled back via bullhorn. A line of state troopers stood behind Werts.
The event also brought out local and national media; a bald man in jean shorts and a t-shirt that said The Dancing Trucker; a man carrying a “Sore Losers Go Home” sign; and a smattering of other counter-protesters.
Ohio patrol and guardsmen staged at Statehouse
Dozens of Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers and Ohio National Guard members are staged inside and outside the Ohio Statehouse today, bracing for the potential of armed protesters.
Troopers inside have duffel bags of gear and riot shields at the ready. Guard airmen and soldiers and equipment are stationed around the building. Fencing linked by zip ties and portable lights have been brought in and windows on the first floor are boarded.
As of about noon, our photographer saw protestors, some of them armed, walking near the state building.
Gov. Mike DeWine announced last week that the Statehouse and state-operated buildings in downtown Columbus will be closed to workers and the public through Wednesday when President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated.
The Ohio Statehouse, which was constructed between 1839 and 1861, sits on a 10 acre parcel. The state patrol is responsible for protecting the Statehouse and its grounds; the Columbus Police Department is responsible for the sidewalks and streets surrounding it.
Over the spring and summer, the Statehouse was the site of protests against public health orders and against racial injustice.
Demonstrations following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis turned destructive, causing $150,000 in damages to the Statehouse windows and grounds. Some of those protests turned destructive later in the evenings.
Laura Bischoff is our Columbus bureau reporter and covers politics and state government. She keeps a close eye on elected leaders, public employees and taxpayer money. Bischoff tries to write stories that inform voters, hold leaders accountable and strengthen democracy.