Leaders urge people to stay away from Downtown Columbus Ohio on Sunday

A pedestrian walks past artwork painted on plywood that was used to cover the front of the Huntington Building across the street from the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus on Tuesday. Much of the downtown area was boarded up following damage caused by protests over the summer, but the plywood window coverings have slowly gone away. Local officials asked people to stay away from Downtown through Wednesday.

The message from city, county and community leaders was clear Friday: Stay away from Downtown on Sunday as the city prepares for armed demonstrators at the Statehouse.

"In the coming days, we will not allow hate, violence and destruction to be part of our city," Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther said Friday during a media event on the City Hall campus Downtown.

Statehouse protests:Downtown Columbus businesses, residents prepare for Sunday Statehouse protest

Officials are worried that tensions could escalate if protesters supporting now-impeached President Donald J. Trump clash with counterprotesters. Groups skirmished at the Statehouse on Jan. 6.

"What hate groups want is confrontation," Ginther said. "Let's not give into them."

Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin said: "We can't give these folks the oxygen, because it just feeds the hate."

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