The mother of Henry Green talks about police violence, the protests, suburban allies and her hopes for the future.
Since her son Henry Green was killed by Columbus police in 2016, Adrienne Hood has emerged as a powerful voice against police brutality. To say the least, it’s been a surprising turn of events for Hood, who spent nearly 20 years in the U.S. Air Force and now works as an education training manager for the Defense Logistics Agency in Whitehall. “I never anticipated being the face of such unfortunate circumstances for many families here in Columbus or even around the state,” she says.
Hood has been a regular presence at the protests in Downtown Columbus in response to the May 25 death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who died in Minneapolis after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. On Sunday, she spoke at a rally outside of City Hall that attracted nearly 2,000 women. Two days earlier, she also addressed a group of nearly 1,000 outside the Statehouse, wearing a T-shirt bearing the name of her dead son. Four years earlier, his death, along with the killing of 13-year-old Ty’re King, prompted an earlier, smaller wave of protests in Columbus, but a grand jury declined to indict the two officers who shot and killed the 23-year-old Green, and a federal judge dismissed Hood’s wrongful death lawsuit against the city. (She’s appealing the decision.)
Over the past four years, Hood has become close with many other mothers whose children have been killed by police in Columbus and elsewhere in Ohio. “We call it the involuntary club,” she says. Many of those women stood alongside her during the Friday rally, and they’re planning to hold other marches soon in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Toledo. “My goal is to take it around the state so people understand it’s not everywhere else except Ohio,” she says. “We have issues here.
Earlier this week, Columbus Monthly spoke with Hood about the protests and how they might lead to real, significant reform. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
You’ve been at the protests quite a bit since they started in late May. Did you witness some actions by the police that troubled you?
I did. You know the aggressiveness of the police officers is always amazing to me. This is why the people are coming out, because of that behavior and the unnecessary aggressiveness. Yet you still see officers hitting people with their bikes. You still see officers on horses, getting close, really close, to the protestors and intimidating them. I'm like, “I don't understand. This is why we're out here, and you all are continuing the behavior that we're talking about.”
I'm not glad that Joyce Beatty and Shannon Hardin and them were Maced, but they needed to experience it. Before then, it was like we were over-exaggerating about the aggressiveness of the officers when we are peacefully protesting. But when they actually experienced it, standing there, peacefully protesting, now it's all of a sudden like an aha moment for them.
Your son’s death and Ty’re King’s death led to protests in 2016 but not significant change. Will this time be different?
I definitely feel like this time is different because Columbus showed up different this time. I truly believe that our city officials—and honestly probably a majority of our community—never thought that Columbus would turn a corner and see that kind of uproar. And because of that, changes are taking place. Case in point: Last week, the mayor signed the executive order for fatal police shootings [investigations] to go outside the department now. That's never happened before.
It seems like every single suburb in Central Ohio has had solidarity protests. Is that encouraging to you?
It absolutely is. That just blesses my soul. As a believer, I believe that all things are possible through Christ. I consider it to be a move of God, God piercing people's hearts to move and understand. To have more allies to get into the fight is awesome to me. I did a Facebook Live with a young lady last Sunday. It was a lot of evangelical Christians, and she asked me to speak to things because there's this misunderstanding around the whole Black Lives Matter. The organization, itself, some of their agenda obviously does not line up with evangelical Christians' agendas, and I get that. I actually agree with them there. But I was just trying to get them to understand that when the community is saying “Black lives matter,” we are talking about bodies, human beings that should be respected as individuals, and not to spend that energy and that focus on the organization and what it is that they are pushing.
So, that was an awesome opportunity. I got a lot of Facebook requests after that. I feel like a part of my charge now is to continue to keep people engaged. Once this kind of dies down and people kind of go back to normal life, it's important for us to continue to stay engaged in these conversations. I told the individuals on Facebook Live, “A lot of our state legislators, they sit in church with you all, so you have access to those individuals, you have access to go in areas that I may not ever get invited into, so you can be my voice in that space. You can be our voice in that space.”
Do you support the idea of a civilian review board, which would investigate complaints against the police department?
I support the civilian review board if they have subpoena power and some type of ability to suggest discipline. As long as there is a civilian review board that has some power to hold our officers accountable, I am in all support. But if they are going to handpick and get people-pleasers to be a part of that civilian review board, I feel like that will be another [way] of pacifying us.
It’s been a difficult journey for you since Henry’s death, but are you feeling better about the direction the city and the country are heading now?
I do. I feel like we are at another one of those pivotal moments in history where we as a community can decide to be on the right side of history or the wrong side of history.
Are you satisfied with the way the city is responding?
I'll say yes and no. I'm satisfied that they are responding, but I'm really disappointed that this is what it took for them to respond. The things that they had been doing here of late, they could've been doing, and they clearly showed me that. When [Mayor Andy Ginther] signed that executive order, they clearly showed me that they could have done this a long time ago. And for that, shame on them. So, that is why it's going to be important for Columbus as a community to continue to hold them accountable, and we can no longer take just their promises. If there's no action, then they have to be actively removed by going to the polls.
What do you see as the next step for these protests? How do you take the anger in the streets and move it to something else?
Educate. Educate and empower. We have to educate about the system, what systems do what, how those systems play into our everyday lives, and then once you get that education, it is then your responsibility to utilize that education to make the moves that we need to have on a continual basis.
So registering people to vote, understanding what your vote means, understanding what offices are responsible for what and all of the things that make us this legislative communal body and those types of tools that people need to make informed decisions when they go to the polls instead of sample ballots and things like that. I think this is where we need to move the people so that they can be actively engaged in the community for us all.
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