Warren Mayor Hopes for Peaceful Protest as County Closes Buildings

Updated: 5:36 p.m., June 1 | Police block entrances to Elm Road Plaza. Pictures
WARREN, Ohio – Mayor Doug Franklin says he will be at tonight’s planned protest in Perkins Park to denounce the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed in Minneapolis a week ago, but he fears people from outside of the county will come to the city to incite violence or cause destruction.

The We Matter Movement plans a peaceful protest at 6 p.m. tonight in Perkins Park in Warren. 

Shortly after speaking with Franklin, social media posts began circulating about groups being bussed into a plaza on Elm Road to march into Warren at 4 p.m. 

Just before 4:30 p.m., officers from the Howland Police Department used road cones to block off the entrance to the plaza so buses couldn’t enter.

Businesses in the plaza, including Tractor Supply Co. and Global Fitness, as well as those in the surrounding vicinity, including Advance Auto Parts and Walmart closed ahead of time. Walmart was closed by 2:30 p.m.

Police had heard the same rumors about buses coming in. If the buses did come, police wouldn’t stop them because people have the right to assemble and protest, said Howland Police Sgt. Jeff Sescourka. However, they blocked off the entrances to the plaza to keep things “calm and peaceful,” he said.

Howland Patrolman Keith Peterson and Sgt. Jeff Sescourka get cones ready to block entrances to the Elm Road Plaza.

Several departments in the area have dispatched additional patrols, including Howland and Bazetta, he noted.

Even though the Perkins Park protest is scheduled to start at 6 p.m., Trumbull County Commissioner Frank Fuda said all county buildings in downtown Warren are closing at 2:30 p.m.

“Even though the protest isn’t until later, that doesn’t mean some people aren’t coming from the outside,” Fuda said. “There are a lot of rumors going around about busses coming in. We’re just doing it as a precaution.”

City officials took measures to mitigate any opportunity for damage, including loose, decorative rocks and hanging flower baskets being removed from the downtown and courthouse square.

Ty’onna Powell, one of the organizers of the We Matter Movement, has called for a peaceful protest to bring people together to stand against racism and injustice. 

She posted on her Facebook page and asked people to share a message, “bussing in protestors to Elm Road in front of Global Fitness today … marching into Warren… pray…”

Her post says she saw the message in a private group and for people to be vigilant and not lose focus and get the message out. 

“If they look like they only here to start some mess and don’t look familiar, most likely, it’s one of them. They did it in Cleveland, they attempted in Youngstown and now they’re gonna attempt to do us. Stand your ground. This is our city,” Powell wrote.

Thom Duma Fine Jewelers closed and boarded up its windows as downtown buildings and businesses evacuated ahead of Monday evening’s protest.

Protesters are being asked to meet on the hill near the playground at Perkins Park, where organizers will say a few words before walking a lap around the park. Powell said protesters are going to be asked to take a knee to say a prayer. 

Protesters will then walk to the Square in downtown Warren and everyone is being asked to leave at 8 p.m., she said. 

“I believe in the right to protest. It was important in shaping our country. It was important in the Civil Rights Movement,” said Franklin, who plans on attending. “I just hope it stays peaceful. Because violence and destruction start, you get further away from the conversations that need to happen to create change,” 

Powell said once she got word through social media that protesters were going to dropped off to join the protest, she got in touch with Franklin and was assured that security would be in place.

“My vision is for everyone, not just the people that are in my city of Warren, but for people who live all throughout Trumbull County to come together, congregate peacefully and safely,” she said.

Powell said she spoke with Franklin and she said he assured her security would be in place. 

“My goal is to bring unity to the city. We have been divided for too long; whites and blacks, systems versus people. Unity is possible, even in our city, and that will be the greatest change for us. We can come together.” Powell said.

Following similar reports, Youngstown said it would close city hall at 2 p.m., while Mahoning County is closing the courthouse at 2:30 p.m. A protest is set to take place at 4 p.m. in downtown Youngstown.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.