Prizm News / February 6, 2018 / By Bob Vitale
Three face misdemeanor charges of that include resisting arrest, while a fourth activist faces more serious felony charges.
By Bob Vitale
Trials begin today for three queer and trans activists who were arrested last June during the Columbus Pride parade.
Prosecutors from the Columbus city attorney’s office and lawyers for Wriply Bennet, Ashley Braxton and Kendall Denton agreed Monday on the eight jurors and four alternates who will decide the fate of the activists, who are part of a group that has become known as the Black Pride 4.
Deandre Miles, the fourth person arrested on June 17, faces more serious charges and will be tried separately.
Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Cindy Ebner said the trial for Bennet, Braxton and Denton is expected to conclude by Friday.
The Black Pride 4 were among a group of protesters who linked arms and stepped onto Broad Street to block the 2017 parade. They said they wanted to protest the acquittal of a police officer who had killed a black motorist in Minneapolis, call attention to the murders of trans women of color across the country, and make a statement about erasure of people of color within the LGBTQ community.
Video of the protest and Columbus police response drew attention nationwide, and activists have targeted Pride organizer Stonewall Columbus in the months since the incident with calls to reduce police presence at the festival and urge Columbus police to drop charges.
On Monday, about two dozen supporters of the Pride protesters rallied outside the Franklin County Government Center and began trial-watching shifts inside as jury-selection began. On the eve of the trial, the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization called on Columbus police to drop charges against all four activists.
The three on trial this week are charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. Bennet and Braxton also are accused of failure to comply with police orders. All are misdemeanor counts but carry potential jail time if they’re found guilty.
Each refused offers by prosecutors Monday to reduce charges and recommend community service in exchange for guilty pleas.
Potential jurors were asked whether they’ve ever attended Columbus Pride, whether they had friends or relatives who are police officers, and whether they believe police are more honest than other people.
One person selected for the jury said he attended the 2017 Pride parade but didn’t see any protests. One person dismissed said she marched in the parade and had read news reports about the protesters.
Denton’s lawyer told jurors Monday that they will be shown video of the protest and the police response during the trial. Bennet’s lawyer said they’re likely to hear from Lori Gum, the former Pride coordinator for Stonewall Columbus who quit her job in protest over the organization’s response to the protesters’ arrests.