Today, after lunch, Richard and I walked over to the Ohio Statehouse to check out the big union rally against Senate Bill 5, the bill that would affect the ability of public employees to engage in collective bargaining rights. I had been hearing the hubbub outside my office window and was eager to see the turnout.
We got to the Statehouse about 12:45 and entered at the Third Street entrance. There were some union folks out on Third Street and milling around the entrance. We saw people wearing public employee union t-shirts, jackets and buttons in the map room and in the Atrium above. Rows of chairs had been set up in the Atrium, facing each other across a center aisle, and as we walked through a large, leather-lunged woman was leading the crowd in “We want respect” chants. I would estimate that several hundred people were in the Atrium, and they were in good spirits.
We crossed through the Statehouse Rotunda and exited out the Broad Street entrance, which was where the real action was. A temporary stage had been erected and two singers with guitars were singing union songs. The crowd covered about two-thirds of the west lawn and sidewalk, with people sitting on the benches and standing on parts of the McKinley memorial. There were lots of union t-shirts, hats, and some very creative signs criticizing Governor Kasich. Some of the signs seemed to be generated by outside forces. For example, we saw several signs referring to Governor Kasich and Wisconsin Governor Walker as “Koch-heads” or “Koch addicts,” and I’m not sure most union workers would focus on the Koch brothers as sign material without some kind of prompting.
The people at the rally were pleasant and friendly, and the whole gathering had an upbeat open-air feel. The Ohio Highway Patrol had officers at points in the Statehouse, and they were professional and friendly as always. We later heard an estimate that 8,500 people were at the rally. I’m not sure it was that large when we were there, but there definitely were thousands of people in attendance. We did not see any counter-protest.
Regardless of your politics, if you are downtown restauranteur you have to like these protests. We saw lots of protestors crowding into the Tip Top, Dunkin Donuts, and other restaurants in the core downtown Columbus area.