Samantha Grimsley, 25, of the North Side, uses a bullhorn and reads excerpts from two books that raise the issues of racism in the criminal justice system and alternatives for policing.
After work, the young woman comes Downtown almost every weekday and reads aloud in front of Columbus police headquarters.
Samantha Grimsley uses a bullhorn and reads excerpts from two books that raise the issues of racism in the criminal justice system and alternatives for policing.
Grimsley, 25, of the North Side, is one of hundreds of young people who participated in protests Downtown that started after the May 25 death of George Floyd while he was in the custody of Minneapolis police officers.
“George Floyd was the last straw,” Grimsley said.
Grimsley noted that there have been other protests in recent years, such as the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, after the police-involved shooting death of Michael Brown in 2014.
But this response feels different, she said, and she wants to show her support for the Black community in advocating for societal changes.
“I see the racial disparities in wealth, the quality of housing and educational standards. It’s hard to deny there is racism in this country,” Grimsley said.
She participated in the street protests, but she said she wanted to engage in more serious dialogue to propose solutions. Grimsley said she tried to talk with police officers on the street, but they would look sideways or “throw out little remarks.”
So on weekdays starting on June 29, Grimsley sits in the courtyard outside the south entrance to Columbus police headquarters. The readings occur between 7 and 10 p.m. Grimsley said she decided on the 10 p.m. end time because she was told that using her bullhorn after that would violate a noise ordinance.
On one occasion, about 10 police officers were in the courtyard while Grimsley was doing a reading.
Most of the time, her words echo off the surrounding stone buildings without an obvious audience. She goes on undaunted, hoping that significant changes will one day occur in the Division of Police.
The two books she reads from are “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander, and “The End of Policing” by Alex S. Vitale.
“The New Jim Crow” deals with the fact that 70% of those incarcerated are African-American.
Grimsley believes that the policing book is pertinent because it proposes policies such as using social workers to deal with issues such as homelessness and drugs and treating addiction more as a medical issue.
“I want to see the police defunded,” Grimsley said, noting that she would like to see the money then shifted to social programs. “Defunding is the first step in the long road to restorative justice.”