Rep. Joyce Beatty, an African-American congresswoman from Ohio's third congressional district, said she was briefly hit with pepper spray in downtown Columbus while protesting the killing of George Floyd.
Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin said on Twitter that he and the congresswoman, 70, were "sprayed with mace or pepper spray" but assured his followers that they were "okay."
"While it was peaceful, there were times when people got off the curb into the street," Beatty said in a video Hardin shared. "But to force is not the answer to this. When you have trained people and young people who are passionate about the fight. They were well organized for 99% of it. They marched, they had incredible signs."
"We came out to support them and be with them," she continued. "It was just something in my heart thinking about George Floyd, thinking about all of the injustices, that I needed to be out there, thinking I was protecting them and it probably was not safe, but I am so proud of my colleagues, I'm so proud of the young people, and we want to continue to protest, but it must be peaceful."
Kyle Robertson/The Columbus Dispatch via AP
Dominic Manecke, a spokesman for Beatty, told CNN that the incident happened when Beatty was attempting to mediate tensions between protesters and police officials. "People are angry. Tensions are very high and she went down there as a voice of reason" Manecke said. "She has a very good connection with the community and was trying to be a mediator. I mean the cops knew who she was and thanked her."
Manecke said that Beatty was attempting to separate a protestor and officer when she got caught between both groups and was sprayed.
"One young black female took a step off (the curb) and the cop kind of took that, I guess, 'sideways,' " Manecke said. "Instantly, a white man, kind of, came to her defense and then was instantly body-slammed to the ground. The congresswoman runs out into the street to hold back the cop and the protesters. Another cop comes up with his bike and pushes the congresswoman out of the way ... and then it's naturally getting heated ... that one cop pulls, I don't know why he does it, he pulls out his Mace and does what he does."
Since Floyd's death in Minneapolis last week, protestors have swarmed major U.S. cities, including Columbus, New York, and Los Angeles, to protest racial injustice and police brutality.
At times, the encounters between protestors and police officials have turned violent, resulting in curfews being implemented as a means to stop the violence.