Springfield officials on death of George Floyd: ‘It’s time that we take a stand’

Mayor Warren Copeland and other Springfield city officials address recent events and public response that’s occurred in Minneapolis this week. CONTRIBUTED

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Mayor Warren Copeland and other Springfield city officials address recent events and public response that’s occurred in Minneapolis this week. CONTRIBUTED

Community leaders and government officials in Springfield spoke out Friday about the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, who was in police custody in Minneapolis.

They also mentioned the ensuing national public outrage and protests that resulted from that incident.

During a Friday afternoon livestream to the public, Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland, along with other city officials said that the city nor its police division condones what happened to Floyd, who died after being handcuffed and held down by several police officers. At least one officer was caught on video, taken by a bystander, pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck.

In the same video, Floyd can be heard repeatedly stating that he was in pain and could not breath. He appears to lose consciousness and was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

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Copeland, on Friday, said the behavior of the officers captured in the video will not be tolerated in the city and discipline will be taken if city officers act in that matter.

“The chief has made clear that what happened in Minneapolis is contrary to the policy of the city of Springfield’s police department,” the mayor said.

“We do not want our officers acting in that way and we will discipline them if they do. This is not what the City of Springfield should expect from their police and we do not expect it from public officials,” he said.

These remarks come after protests have been staged throughout the country, including in Columbus, following Floyd’s death on Monday. Some have of those have turned violent and continue.

On Thursday night, what began as a peaceful demonstration in downtown Columbus turned into a confrontation with the police. Several windows were smashed at the Ohio Statehouse and at storefronts along surrounding streets, the Associated Press reported.

Gov. Mike DeWine said, during a press conference on Friday, that protests are appropriate and for Ohioans to speak out to end injustice and to usher change. He also asked those who gather to protest in coming days to do so peacefully.

In Springfield, Vice Mayor Joyce Chilton and City Commissioner Rob Rue agreed with Mayor Copeland’s message to the city and said that they believe everyone should be treated fairly and take a stand.

“We as leaders, along with our city police officers, our city firefighters, our city manager and our chief of police, we stand united in believing that everyone in the City of Springfield should be treated fairly,” Chilton said.

MORE: Minneapolis protests spread to other cities across the US

Rue said that silence is no longer golden and said the phrase “all lives matter” is a slap in the face to black racial injustice.

“It’s time that we go ahead and take a stand, it’s time for the community members who have sat on the sidelines to stand, but stand peacefully and let your voice be heard,” he added.

Springfield Police Chief Lee Graf and City Manager Bryan Heck were also present during the livestream and agreed that the city would not tolerate or condone racism or related actions.

“Springfield does not condone racism. The violence that we saw in Minneapolis, it was blatant disregard for human life and that is inexcusable and not tolerated, and we will not stand for that in our community,” Heck said. “Springfield is a community that rises above.”

Graf said that his officers are trained not to use methods used by the Minneapolis officers who arrested Floyd.

“But in that act we are also taking the responsibility of the life, safety and protection of the person who is being arrested. And that is a very heavy responsibility,” he added.

Additionally, State Rep. Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield posted on his Facebook page Friday that he was having conversations regarding the incident in Minneapolis with Denise Williams, the president of the Springfield Unit of the NAACP.

In the post Koehler said “I can’t imagine how I would react if my son was killed in this way. I believe the officers need to be held responsible for their actions.”

PHOTOS: Protesters gather in downtown Columbus on Thursday night

He continued by saying that “local leaders like me need to use this time to listen. We need to look introspectively at our community to make sure we are addressing issues of race and justice in Springfield and throughout Clark County.”

The local NAACP posted on its Facebook page showing support for protesters saying “Angry yes, frustrated yes, outraged absolutely; let your voices be heard in a peaceful way. If you want to march….,March. But do it peacefully. If you want your voices heard. let it be heard. Peacefully.”

Williams said its important for her organization to be involved in a united effort with city leadership in order to address systemic issues of inequality.

She added that her unit is coordinating with the community regarding demonstrations in the city and stressed that her organization would not rest until the four officers involved in the incident resulting in Floyd’s death were charged.

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