Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz gave an update Wednesday morning to the likelihood of upcoming local protests and rallies, some that could, but unlikely, turn violent.
At the onset of the U.S. House of Representatives beginning a second impeachment Wednesday afternoon against President Donald Trump, Lutz said law enforcement is prepared for anything that might arise from individuals across the political spectrum.
Lutz, who will have been in law enforcement for 32 years this March, said that throughout his career he has helped prepare for and respond to various types of protests and rallies.
From Ku Klux Klan events in his earlier days, in which his fellow deputies and he dealt with, to Black Lives Matter protest this summer, the county sheriff’s department stands ready to protect individuals’ constitutional rights while also enforcing the law.
“I fully respect everybody’s opinion, we have a constitution that spells out what people are allowed to do and what they aren’t,” said Lutz about balancing individuals’ rights and the safety of others.
Thankfully in recent years demonstrations such as the Pride Month rally to vehicles participating in the Trump Train have all provided law enforcement advanced notice of their events and remained peaceful and non-destructive, Lutz added.
Protest following the death of George Floyd last summer to the rally last week on the U.S. Capitol Grounds have proven all too well how quickly events can turn violent and the need for quick action by law enforcement.
Often the sole peacekeeping force between protesters and counter-protesters, Lutz described the need to have police ready to protect lives and property from death and destruction.
While the State Sheriff’s Association has alerted Ohio’s 88 county sheriff departments of potential unrest, most, if not all is expected to occur in Columbus at the State House.
The site has been the center of attention throughout its history, most recently being the location where protesters marched following the death of Floyd to those upset with the Governor’s order to shut down businesses and impose mask mandates.
While the City of Zanesville police and Muskingum County Sheriff deputies have not been asked to assist, local Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers stationed at the Zanesville Post have been.
Lutz added that while county deputies in Ohio share what’s called a Memoridiam of Understanding, which allows deputies to assist other counties, his office hasn’t been asked for help recently.
Citing decades ago, Lutz said that Muskingum County deputies were once sent to Coshocton County for extra support when the Ku Klux Klan held events, as an example of how county sheriff’s departments support one another.
A security review this past spring, initiated by the county commissioners, led to the Muskingum County Courthouse having extra deputies and new devices such as an x-ray scanner installed.
Homeland Security, as well as personnel with the Ohio Supreme Court, noted in a visit in late 2019 that the county courthouse was one of only a few in Ohio that still had multiple public entrances.
Upon that advice, the commissioners allocated funding for new equipment and additional duputies to better secure the courthouse from future potential threats.
Lutz said that those deputies, while on duty, are able to watch cameras places around the courthouse complex and monitor for any events beginning to transpire.
Road deputies, jail staff and the county’s special response team are also available to quickly respond to an incident should it occur.
Area law enforcement also regularly prepares for numerous possible scenarios, Lutz added, including should a protest or demonstration turn violent.
Currently, there are no scheduled events planned to occur downtown.
“That’s the great thing about the United States of American, the greatest country in the world,” Lutz said. “You have the right to express your concerns and express your feelings like that, just please do so peacefully.”