One of the protest’s leader, Devin Smith, a fourth-year in personalized study, speaks to the crowd in front of Bricker Hall during a Sept. 2 protest following the death of Donovan Lewis. Credit: Zachary Rilley | Photo Editor
About 50 students gathered outside the Ohio Union Friday speaking out against the death of 20-year-old Donovan Lewis and urging the university to sever its ties with the Columbus Division of Police.
The protest, which was partially led by Devin Smith, a fourth-year in personalized study, comes three days after Columbus Police fatally shot Lewis, who was unarmed in the Hilltop neighborhood. Smith, who grew up playing football with Lewis, said the demonstrators demanded Ohio State’s acknowledgement of Lewis’ death and an end to its ties with Columbus Police.
“First and foremost, we demand that we remember the name Donovan Lewis,” Smith said. “And not only that, we demand that we continue to say the name Donovan Lewis. We demand that he be remembered not as some sort of martyr, not as another statistic, but for who he was: a good kid, a good kid who deserves to be alive today.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, multiple Columbus police officers reported to Lewis’ apartment Tuesday morning to arrest him on warrants.
Police found Lewis in his bedroom, and officer Ricky Anderson opened the door and seconds later shot Lewis, according to body camera footage released by Columbus Police. Lewis died in the OhioHealth Grant Medical Center shortly after.
Smith said Lewis had a bright personality and brought a smile to people’s faces.
“He was so passionate, just a happy soul,” Smith said. “Obviously he was going through some things, but guess what, who’s not?”
Demonstrators also asked for Ohio State to “play a bigger role in the Columbus community towards the prevention of these tragedies” and the firing of Anderson.
Yondris Ferguson, a fourth-year in political science and African American and African studies, said he believes Columbus Police’s involvement with the university is not needed.
“OSU already has a very nice sized police department of their own. I cannot understand for the life of me why they feel as though their police department is not enough,” Ferguson, speaker of the Undergraduate Student Government General Assembly, said.
University spokesperson Chris Booker said in an email Ohio State’s primary law enforcement agency is the Ohio State University Police Division. The Columbus Police officers mainly collaborate with the university for traffic control for athletic events and share a mutual-aid agreement that enables university police to assist Columbus Police officers “off campus in certain circumstances, such as joint patrols,” he said.
“Ohio State supports the right of our students, faculty and staff to peacefully express their views and to speak out about issues that are important to them,” Booker said.
Students walked into the Ohio Union, sharing their message with those inside. They then walked through campus to Bricker Hall, which holds University President Kristina M. Johnson’s office, and attempted to enter.
Ferguson said protesting police violence is critical, but he hasn’t seen much change after taking part in similar protests.
“This is not my first protest,” Ferguson said. “I just get tired because I pretty much say the same thing, taper it to the same situation and a few months to a year later, it comes right back to this.”
Protest leader Isaac Wilson, a second-year in aerospace engineering, said although he didn’t have a personal relationship with Lewis, he had seen him in passing and felt called to organize the protest.
“I feel a sense of helplessness almost,” Wilson said. “What can we do besides come out here and protest and be unity in our community?”
Wilson said the proximity of the Hilltop neighborhood, just west of campus, made the situation hit close to home.
“The crazy thing is that Hilltop, which is where it happened at or near where it happened at, that’s 15 minutes, 12 mintues away from here,” Wilson said. “It only takes a drive and a knock on the door and that could be me.”
Aubrey Wright contributed reporting.
This content was originally published here.