Protesters say police used excessive force at Portman demonstration
A video from the protests at Senator Rob Portman's office Friday has been getting national attention after protesters said police officers used excessive force ending their demonstration. A video showing a woman falling out of her wheelchair onto the floor has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times. Protesters said she was pushed out by police and then arrested.
Alisa Grishman was one of about 30 protesters who packed the lobby of the Huntington Plaza in Downtown Columbus. She uses a wheelchair because of her multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and arthritis. She's the woman seen falling out of her wheelchair in the video going viral.
"It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life," Grishman said. "There were people trampling around. I had this moment of just knowing I was going to get trampled to death."
Grishman drove to Columbus from Pittsburgh with other protesters from the disability rights group ADAPT. They were demanding Portman commit to voting no on the Republican replacement plan to Obamacare. They have concerns about the changes proposed to Medicaid and the caps on coverage. Portman has said he doesn't plan to vote for the bill as it's currently written.
"His vote impacts me even if I'm not his immediate constituent," she said about making the trip to Ohio.
The protest lasted several hours before police officers cleared the lobby. Officers said the protesters blocked medics trying to help someone in the building complaining about chest pains. Protesters deny that happened and said they left a path for any emergencies.
"There was definitely some confusion even amongst the fire department who wasn't really sure what was going on," said Atticus Garden who recorded the video of Grishman on his phone. "It was very loud, very chaotic."
Garden said he's still angry about how Grishman and other protesters with disabilities were treated.
"What is even worse is how that officer responded which was simply turn around and walk away," he said about the video he recorded. "It was a solid 15, 20 seconds before she and another officer went back to assist that woman. It appears those that have sworn to protect and serve us have seemed to fail to remember that their job is the safety and well-being of those they serve."
ABC6/FOX28 called, emailed and texted Columbus Police asking for clarification about how Grishman was treated. None of those messages were returned. Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs issued a response on the department's Facebook page early Tuesday evening asking for people to come forward with any video of the incident. She also said there's evidence of another situation where a protester threw himself on the floor to make it look like he'd been pushed.
Grishman has been arrested several times protesting with ADAPT. She laughed when asked about the accusations the protesters were paid to be there.
"I would never protest for money," Grishman said. "That cheapens the whole thing. I'm fighting because this is what my conscience tells me to do."
Another rally was scheduled for Tuesday evening at the Statehouse.