Prizm News / March 13, 2018 / By Bob Vitale
‘You felt the need to stand up for what you believe,’ judge says as she orders probation and community service for activists.
By Bob Vitale
Wriply Bennet, Ashley Braxton and Kendall Denton will serve no jail time for their convictions on charges stemming from protests at last year’s Columbus Pride parade.
Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Cynthia Ebner heeded the recommendations of city prosecutors, defense attorneys and leaders of Columbus’ LGBTQ organizations this morning when she decided against sentencing the three black queer activists to jail.
Instead, Ebner imposed community service, probation and fines. And while she told each that they broke the law by disrupting the parade and ignoring police who ordered them out of marchers’ way, Ebner also acknowledged that the protesters were standing up for their beliefs.
“You felt you needed to empower (transgender women of color),” Ebner told Bennet, who faced up to 10 months in jail—the most severe potential sentence of the group—for her conviction last month on misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct, failure to comply with police officers’ orders and resisting arrest.
“You felt you needed to stand up for what you believe,” the judge said.
Supporters filled the courtroom this morning, as they did during the trial last month for Bennet, Braxton and Denton. They hugged the three afterward.
“It’s over for us,” Bennet said. “Now we have to show up for Deandre.”
Deandre Miles, the fourth person arrested at Columbus Pride, still faces trial on a more serious felony charge. The group has become known as the Black Pride 4.
They were part of a larger group of protesters who stepped in front of the Pride parade last June to call attention to the acquittal a day earlier of a Minnesota police officer who shot and killed Philando Castille during a traffic stop.
The group also sought to focus attention on violence against trans women of color and marginalization of people of color within the LGBTQ community.
Among those who wrote to Ebner recommending leniency for the three activists were the leaders of all of Columbus’ LGBTQ groups. In a joint letter, the organizations said Bennet, Braxton and Denton “have already suffered enough” from months of uncertainty and expenses related to their trials.
“Incarceration would create more barriers to the peaceful resolution of conflict within the Columbus LGBTQ community…,” the LGBTQ leaders wrote.
Ebner’s sentences included two years of probation for each activist and between 48 and 80 hours of community service. She imposed fines of $100 for Denton and $200 for Braxton.
(Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Philando Castile’s death occurred in Minneapolis. Castile was killed during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minn. We regret the error.)