image Even the Columbus Dispatch is reporting that the decision to lock people out of the Statehouse was made by the Ohio Department of Public Safety, which is headed by Kasich appointee Thomas Charles.

Charles is not just the head of the Ohio Department of Public Safety, but he’s formerly with the Ohio Highway Patrol.

Fearing for the safety of the hundreds already gathered in the Statehouse, the patrol locked outside doors, leaving throngs of protesters on the east side along 3rd Street chanting and cheering so loudly that they could be heard across Downtown.

With a SWAT vehicle stationed across Third Street from the Statehouse and heavy security across the grounds, the patrol allowed only about 750 inside the Capitol. Seats were placed in the Atrium so the protesters could listen to the scheduled testimony of about 15 opponents to the bill at a Senate committee hearing.

Not only was security stepped up and people denied access after only 750 were admitted (we can easily establish that the Patrol has never limited admission to the Statehouse to such a low number before), but there was a SWAT vehicle dispatched to a peaceful protest of ordinary Ohio citizens.

Thomas Charles attempted to defend today’s actions.  Actually, he ran over to the Senate Insurance, Labor and Commerce Committee to tell them that it wasn’t his decision, but the Ohio Highway Patrol.  The Patrol instead tried to blame the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board, who had already started referring all media inquires to… the Highway Patrol.

Now, the problem for Charles is that blaming the Patrol isn’t really a defense… since he’s ultimately responsible for the Ohio Highway Patrol as its a Division of the agency he leads.

If Charles wasn’t aware that the Ohio Highway Patrol was taking unprecedented measures to keep citizens out of the Statehouse during a legislative session, then he’s the most out-of-touch administrator in the history of Ohio bureaucracy.  Regardless, as the head of the agency responsible, Charles is ultimately responsible – especially given his long history as a former member of the Highway Patrol.

What took place was unconstitutional and a stunning violation of ordinary citizens’ constitutional and civil rights.  Given Director Charles stunning lack of legal knowledge in key issues related to his prior positions, allow me to make him familiar with a rather significant constitutional right he violated today… of over five thousand Ohioans:

“The people have the right to assemble together, in a peaceable manner, to consult for their common good; to instruct their representatives; and to petition the general assembly for the redress of grievances.”—Article I, Section 3; Ohio constitution

For the record, here’s what the Dispatch reported Public Safety’s excuse was for today’s sudden and unprecedented restrictions:

Joe Andrews, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Public Safety, said crowds were limited for safety reasons, such as if emergency personnel needed to treat someone inside who was ill or injured.

Yeah, cause what with all those police officers and firefighters around, there was nobody there in the crowd to handle an emergency.  Is that why there was a SWAT team, and an unusually high number of plainclothes Patrol officials conducting “security” at the Statehouse today?  In case someone got the vapors?

This is a trumped up public safety excuse to serve as a guise to interfere with the legitimate and reasonable exercise of individuals’ right to freely speak, assemble, and petition their government.  I can’t imagine any court hearing this wouldn’t find this as nothing more than a pretext to violate citizens’ civil rights.

I am going to submit a public records request (as I’m sure many media outlets will be doing) to inquire exactly what prompted what can only be described as a colossally dumb public relations disaster.  Seriously, Kasich has been Governor for only two months and his Administration routinely demonstrates a hostility to transparency in unimaginable ways.

I am also going to write the Ohio Inspector General’s office and request that it open an investigation to look to see what influenced such a ridiculous decision, who made it, who was informed of it, and why it was supposedly made.  Regardless, it is clear that this decision ultimately falls within the Ohio Department of Public Safety.  Whether he was cluelessly out-of-the-loop or was consciously part of a decision to intentionally keep Ohio citizens out in the cold and out of the Statehouse in order to dissuade people from staying today, Thomas Charles should resign.

I am asking that you call Governor Kasich’s office and demand that he fire Thomas Charles:

  • Governor: (614) 466-3555
  • Governor constituent hotline: (614) 644-4357
  • Department of Public Safety (614) 466-3383

We will continue to dig and follow this story closely.