Extraordinary events have again disrupted our editorial plans. Three weeks before we were to go to print with this issue, George Floyd died in the custody of Minneapolis police, inspiring protests against racism and police brutality in Columbus and around the country.
We hustled to turn around a feature that captured what was happening in the streets (“An Uprising on High Street”). The story, written by me, includes dramatic images of the protests from our photo editor Tim Johnson and our colleagues at The Columbus Dispatch, who’ve been on the scene from the beginning. Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin, who was pepper-sprayed by Columbus police on day three of the protests, calls this period “as seminal a moment as the 1960s.”
Indeed, Bill Shkurti, the author of “The Ohio State University in the Sixties,” sees parallels to that era. Following the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy in 1968, riots broke out all over the country. Columbus, however, was the only major Ohio city to avoid significant violence. That peace led city leaders to conclude they were right to crack down aggressively on smaller protests during the long, hot summer of 1967, Shkurti said. But discontent was still simmering under the surface until the spring of 1970, when the campus area exploded in the worst Columbus riots of that period, forcing Ohio State to shut down for nearly two weeks. This time, city leaders responded to the protests in a more thoughtful way, Shkurti said, with both sides exploring what led to the tumult.
Today, Columbus—and the rest of the country—faces a similar choice between cracking down or seeking compromise. Speaking in early June, Shkurti said it’s been a mixed bag so far—an initial response (pepper spray, riot gear, physical clashes) that mirrored the 1967 reaction, followed by calmer interactions (listening, face-to-face meetings) similar to the post-1970 approach. “I think we’re kind of in an inflection point as to whether we head towards more disorder over the next few months and years, or we get things turned around and get into a more constructive phase,” Shkurti said.***
A quick note about our dining coverage: Since May, we haven’t published our main restaurant reviews, and we don’t have a timeline for bringing them back. We’re also taking a year off from our annual top 10 list of the best restaurants in the city, part of our Restaurant Guide special publication published in the fall. The change began for a practical reason (because of the dine-in ban, we couldn’t eat at the establishment we were set to review), but the decision goes deeper than that. With restaurants hurting terribly, it didn’t feel like the right time for criticism—and it still doesn’t. “We need to be sure that our dining critics feel safe dining out, and that we’re being fair to businesses as they navigate this difficult time,” says dining editor Erin Edwards.