Social Issues Remain as Court Building Is Repaired
By Anne Yeager | August 12, 2020
Exterior repairs of the Ohio Supreme Court's historic home were completed this week, but the issues raised by ongoing protests in America remain unresolved and troubling.
That's the view expressed by Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor in a video released today.
"As disheartened as I was about what happened to our building, I'm equally as disheartened that people in this state feel disenfranchised, and the treatment that they receive is unfair across all of our institutions," the chief justice said in an interview in the short documentary.
The Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center was damaged on the nights of May 28 and 29 during protests that followed the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Columbus was one of scores of U.S. cities where peaceful protests followed in the name of racial justice.
The grounds of the Ohio Statehouse a block from the Court building was a focal point of peaceful demonstrations for weeks. But vandalism also occurred at the capitol, the Court, and many downtown buildings.
"I'm not blaming the protesters at all," Chief Justice O'Connor said. The vandals "took advantage of the people who had a legitimate reason to be protesting."
The Court building was tagged with graffiti in red and black spray paint, and some windows were broken the first night. The second night's destruction was worse, with nearly all first- and ground-floor windows broken with rocks and bricks.
Clean-up efforts began at dawn on Saturday, May 30.
"It was a tremendous effort by our facilities team," Administrative Director Jeff Hagler said. "With as many buildings that had been damaged downtown, primarily with glass and window damage, they were the first to get plywood and materials to secure the building."
The video by the Court's Public Information Office documents the damage and the careful, weeks-long restoration of the limestone façade, fountains, plazas, and windows.
The film also gathers the viewpoints of the chief justice and staff about the episode and the context of why the peaceful protests took place.
The demonstrators, Chief Justice O'Connor said, feel disenfranchised.
"I think that there's very legitimate concerns, and I think that in many ways I'm learning more and more with each incident, and the triggers to these incidences," she said.
"No matter how much I learn, I don't know that I'll ever truly appreciate what the feelings are, what the emotions are, and the sense of loss that is built upon centuries of inequality in our country."