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A Republican state representative in Ohio says he was spat upon and became a target of bottles and insults by protesters as he attended a rally in support of police officers on Sunday, the Columbus Dispatch reported.
Rep. Jay Edwards told the paper that after attending the rally in Athens, he was followed to his car by demonstrators who screamed at him, blocked his path, spit on him, and heaved bottles.
“It was very odd to see someone take down their mask to spit on you. I wouldn’t say that I was scared. It was an eerie feeling,” he said.
A video posted to Edwards’ Facebook page shows demonstrators yelling obscenities and stalking him before two police officers intervene and escort him the rest of the way to his vehicle.
Some protesters held signs that said “Defund the Police” while others held signs saying “Black Lives Matter.”
“We chased our racist state rep Jay Edwards to his car but the police stopped us from blocking him in,” a public post from a Facebook user named Eli Bugsy wrote.
The paper noted that some people who claimed to have been there said no one spat on Edwards or threw anything at him, but he disputes that and said those incidents occurred before the videos were taken.
“I was completely surrounded,” Edwards, a two-term lawmaker, told the paper. “I stopped walking. I realized if I continued walking I would have to start touching people, pushing them to get past. That’s a point, in my opinion, where it’s gone too far.”
At that point, he said, police intervened.
“It’s a good example of why I defend the police,” he said.
The rally took place about a day after an officer who was responding to a report of an intoxicated man at a Home Depot parking lot was shot and killed in Toledo, Ohio.
According to officials, officer Anthony Dia was struck once in the chest by a bullet fired by Edward Henry, who took his own life a short while after killing Dia.
A recording of Dia’s final words to police dispatch — “Tell my family I love them” — were posted online.
I’m Devastated… 💔🖤💙🖤
“Tell my Family I love them” Rest In Peace brother. We have the watch from here.
— Bino Cadenas (@Officer_Bino) July 4, 2020
For his part, Edwards said he attended the rally because supporting police “is something I truly believe in.”
The rally was organized by people who do not support defunding police departments.
“I just don’t think that’s something the majority of people agree with,” he said.
The Post, an Athens-based news outlet, noted that the Defend the Police rally was met with counter-demonstrators called “Defend Our Community.”
DEVELOPING: Protests and Counterprotests are flaring up outside the Athens County Court House. Tensions are running high, with pro-police protestors on one side and BLM counterprotestors on the other. Stay tuned for more updates. pic.twitter.com/jsGHZecHKb
— The Post (@ThePost) July 5, 2020
Geoff West, an Athens barber, said he doesn’t understand how anyone can support and defend police.
“I just feel like they feel attacked because … their livelihood, their comfortableness, their comfort, like, all that’s being tested right now,” he told the outlet. “At the end of the day, if you talk about equality, you want it to be fair and safe, and they will be able to put that down and come on the side of real people.”
As for Edwards, he told the Columbia Dispatch he’s open to having conversations about police reform and that he supports a bill proposed by two GOP colleagues that includes establishing a statewide database for police misconduct and mandatory psychological testing for new police hires.
“We are at a pivotal time where we could have real reform,” Edwards noted. “But it’s such a tough spot to try to get stuff done. The politics of it is playing into it more than the policy.”
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