CLEVELAND — Ohio’s governor and one of its U.S. senators said Tuesday they see no reason for sending the military into the state, a day after President Donald Trump threatened to use troops to restore order in states affected by the George Floyd protests.
Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican who activated the state’s National Guard over the weekend to help quell the protests in Cleveland and Columbus, said the response should be left in the hands of local leaders.
“I think this is the way Ohioans want this to be handled,” he said.
Sen. Rob Portman, also a Republican who lives in the Cincinnati area, agreed. “It should be what the mayors and governors want,” he said. “The National Guard certainly in Ohio is capable of handling the situation.”
Trump on Monday vowed to call on the military if state authorities don’t restore order. He also told the nation’s governors during a video teleconference that “most of you are weak” in dealing with the protests.
DeWine said he thought the state has handled the disturbances well and noted Trump didn’t mention Ohio during the call. The governor said the mostly peaceful demonstrations have been “hijacked by violent people.”
Hundreds of storefronts and government buildings were damaged across the state during weekend protests sparked by the May 25 death of Floyd, a black man who died after a white officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck, even as he pleaded for air and eventually stopped moving.
The protests in Ohio continued on Tuesday afternoon without the destruction that erupted before in the state’s major cities.
Portman said he agreed with Trump on expediting the federal probe of Floyd’s death and on the need to stop violence.
He’d like to hear less bellicose language from the White House.
“Words matter. And we need to be sure we’re not inflaming this situation,” Portman said. “This is a time for healing, it’s a time to calm things down so we can have a dialogue. And I think that’s what’s needed right now.”
Trump carried Ohio in 2016 by a surprising 8-point margin, after losing the GOP primary to then-Gov. John Kasich.
DeWine said Tuesday that he wants to look at new legislation that could close a loophole that allows fired police officers or those who leave a job on bad terms to quickly take another law enforcement job.
There should be a way, he said, for a police department to know more about an applicant’s history. “You get one bad apple in there and it ruins it for society,” DeWine said,
He also mentioned bringing uniformity in reviewing police shootings, raising the possibility that it might be better for an outside group to do the assessments instead of local prosecutors.
The focus now, though, for state and city leaders remains on maintaining order at the protests. Hundreds gathered for more demonstrating in Columbus and Cleveland on Tuesday.
“People say there’s change, but every day people are losing their lives because of their skin color. They are being arrested because of their skin color,” Devin Jackson, of Westlake, said at a protest outside a police station in Cleveland.
“This is the final straw,” he said. “If things don’t change we’re going to have to take action ourselves.”
Two police officials talked with those in the crowd of 200 and condemned what happened to Floyd.
“It was inhumane what happened to that man,” said Deputy Chief Wayne Drummond.
Some have criticized how police have responded during the demonstrations.
Columbus police officers were seen in social media videos pepper spraying protesters and members of the press Monday night. In Cincinnati, one reporter was detained and at least one more was pushed.
Mayor John Cranley apologized for the police detention of a Cincinnati Enquirer reporter, calling it “a big mistake.” The reporter was released without charges.
Officials in Cleveland, Toledo and Cincinnati over the weekend said they believed that out-of-towners were largely responsible for violence. But since then, media outlets reviewed court records and reported that the large majority of those arrested during the protests were local or Ohio residents.