Columbus: Violent Summers

July 6, 2016

The summers of Columbus, OH, are times of exploration, unity and enjoyment. A celebration of the beautiful landscapes, alluring skies, and the proud people that make up this virtuous city. This city generates breathes of new energy that infect those that embrace its attractions and the multitude of events that coincide with them. Events such as the Arts Festival, Asian Festival, Film Festival, Red, White and Boom and the State Fair draw in individuals from different cultural backgrounds to inhale this same energy. In turn, creating opportunities for people to conjoin and become one as a community and continue to build as a city. However, this unification also breeds opportunities for divide. This division has proven to be a direct product of the violence that commonly occurs at these events. This violence has simply gotten out of hand. The number of those wounded/killed is a staggering one, and despite what the city has done to prevent the number of incidents, the brutality continues to persist. It’s time for a change, and it’s the city’s responsibility to address the amount of violence currently present, the actions necessary to prevent it, and to determine a long term solution to eliminate these unjust acts.

Unfortanetly, citizens have seemingly grown accustom to the violence that has taken place in our city, especially during the summer. Based on the data collected by website, neighborhoodscout.com, Columbus is considered one of the most dangerous in the U.S. In 2015, there were a total of 40,789 crimes, 48.79 per 1,000 residents and a score of 7/100 in level of safety. A big portion of which were committed between the months of May and August. These results have prompted the infamous nickname of “Killumbus,” and the number of stigmas many reporters and journalists have attributed to the moniker. Therefore, it’s no surprise that these acts have made their way onto these events. Events that have now become pillars in the development and reformation of our culture. Nearly every year there’s at least one festival or concert being shut down by authorities due to gang activity, injury or risk of gunfire. In 2013, writer Mary Beth Lane of the Columbus Dispatch, reported that an 11-year-old boy was gunned down while attending the annual Juneteenth Festival. The event was then cancelled for the remainder of the weekend and sources everywhere covered the incident. Thankfully, the young man under gunfire would eventually recover from his injury, and the gunman was sentenced to four years in a juvenile facility. The following year police and security of the fest warned director, Anthony Thomas, about the violence to come and the event was in risk of being cancelled. Instead, Thomas was forced to move the ceremony from its original location at Franklin Park, which it had been held for 23 years, to Genoa Park in downtown Columbus. Since the move, Genoa Park has remained as the central venue for the annual celebration due to its stable and secure environment.

In the aftermath of the incidents that have taken place, the question still remains, what has the city done to prevent such incidents from occurring? Time and time again it seems as though there is little concern for these involute acts and the violence that comes with them. These issues have seemingly been disregarded by those in power. Which in turn, has provided more opportunities for individuals to indulge within them. However, recently the city has taken the initiative to create a solution to negate these actions. In doing so, they’ve increased the number of policemen and women at these events to provide additional safety for those in attendance. Especially, after considering acts of violence nationally like the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing or more recently, the shooting outside the Orlando night club this past June have garnered the attention of the directors of these programs. Many venues have taken the necessary steps in their efforts to avoid situations as such. For example, director of this year’s Stonewall Pride Fest, Karla Rothan, reportedly spent over $25,000 on both private security and special duty officers due to the Orlando shootings. Fortunately, the weekend ended without a single incident. Still, it’s been difficult to evaluate how much safer these events have become. Especially, when one considers the multitude of recent incidents that have occurred. Namely, the young men that were assaulted at this year’s Asian Fest. Without question, the Pride Festival was a great step in the right direction. However, it shouldn’t take the threat of a national crisis for us to realize how important a priority it is to sustain our people’s safety. These individuals and their families attend these events to enjoy what the city has to offer culturally and to take part within it. Yet, they are constantly in risk of being a bystander or victim of this involute behavior. It’s clear, there’s still more to be done.

Again, it’s the city’s job to properly address this violence, things we can do to prevent it, and to ultimately determine a long term solution. Especially, for events such as the Asian Festival, Arts Festival, and Red, White and Boom that aren’t as condensed as the State Fair. Which, makes it more difficult to control and sensor what individuals are entering/exiting at any given time. I suggest these festivals implement not only more security, but more effective security. In the last 15 years, the amount of individuals that attend these events have grown exponentially. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been enough individuals helping to police this increased populous. They should work to only allow those that are willing to be checked for any gang related accessories or tattoos, weapons, or items that could be utilized to harm anyone. Furthermore, the directors that run and promote these ceremonies should also inform people about the violence. To expect no violence is simply unrealistic; however, taking the initiative to inform our people on the amount of violence that occurs may potentially to reduce it over time. Beyond these events though, as a people we have to be accountable for our actions and to first invest in making our communities better, then expand farther. Lastly, as a city have to do more to ensure this generation and those ahead of us won’t be plagued by these acts. Hopefully, in time reducing the crime rates in the entire city in our efforts to make Columbus a greater city.

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