What started as a peaceful protest organized by several young adults frustrated by the deaths of Black people at the hands of police officers became violent in the late hours of the night May 29 and early morning May 30.
At roughly 3 p.m. May 29, a crowd gathered at Monument Circle to protest the murder of George Floyd. On May 25, 46-year-old Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police and the video of the incident went viral, sparking national outrage. Members of the Indianapolis protest called for justice, not just for Floyd, but for 21-year-old Desjean Reed. Reed was killed by IMPD earlier this month after a chase.
This protest, unlike others, was organized by younger community members and supported by the Indianapolis chapter of Black Lives Matter (BLM). Lamari Edwards, 20, was the head organizer of the event.
“We’re here to get justice. That means jail time, ideally the death penalty,” Edwards said of the police involved in the deaths. “But we’ll start small and say life in prison.”
Edwards, who was a friend of Reed’s, said watching viral videos of Black men being killed by police makes her sick to her stomach because they could be her brother or her friend.
Quan Addison knows all too well the fear that comes with being a Black man in America. As a father of five boys, he said he and his wife are afraid for them to be out.
“One of them could be out and pull a comb out of their hair and have it in his hands,” Addison said, “and a cop could think that it was a gun and shoot him. It’s just crazy.”
Throughout the first half of the rally, Edwards and other co-organizers led chants over a megaphone, including “Fuck 12,” and “No justice, no peace.” Protesters screamed the names of Floyd, Reed and Ahmaud Arbery, who was murdered while jogging earlier this year in Georgia . A small group of IMPD officers were standing nearby, but not actively engaging with the protesters.
Among the protesters was Paula Kelly Gentile, 66. She said she was at Monument Circle before the protest started, praying for Floyd.
“I’m not for saying, ‘F the police,’” Gentile said. “But I’m for justice. They murdered that man.”
Around 7 p.m., the protesters decided to march around Monument Circle chanting and holding their signs. After the second lap, a protester started blaring N.W.A’s “Fuck the Police.” It was around this time a member of the protest said IMPD officers started physically engaging with protesters. This claim could not be verified by IMPD.
Shortly after, the crowd gathered again at the north side of Monument Circle, this time forming a line facing the street. Jessica Louise, an organizer for Indianapolis BLM, called for white allies to build a barricade if the police tried to engage protesters.
Roughly 30 IMPD officers — several in riot gear — were called to the scene. They stood in front of the protesters, many with pepper spray at the ready. At this, several protesters started taunting the officers, including one woman who told them to go ahead and grab their robes, alluding to ties to the Ku Klux Klan. As tension grew between the two groups, water and empty bottles were thrown at police, which led to several officers deploying pepper spray.
However, protesters promised to be back out in the days to come to continue advocating for justice. As officers began backing away from the crowd, protesters began chanting “No more corruption, we want a revolution!”
Later on in the night, the protest moved outside of the Statehouse, where reports of pepper spray pellets being shot at protesters by police began. Several buildings downtown had their windows smashed until there was a constant buzz of security alarms.
The CVS at the corner of Ohio and Illinois streets was broken into and looted, as was the T.J. Maxx at Illinois and Market streets. People poured in through the busted doors and came running out with as much as they could carry. Some had another person waiting in a car to drive off.
Many took to social media to describe why tensions escelated.
Satchuel Cole, who’s with the group IMPD Transparency, posted IMPD officers stole medical equipment from the protesters and “unlawfully detained one of us.” The Recorder has reached out to Cole for more details.
A video posted to Facebook appears to show officers taking medical supplies while most people were gone.
Mat Davis, another organizer, posted he was trying to get people to go home around 10:30 p.m. when officers shot pepper bullets that hit him in the shoulder and leg.
“Then they FLOODED Capital with tear gas and things escalated from there,” he wrote.The riots continued into the early hours of May 30, with several fires reported at downtown businesses. At roughly 3:30 a.m., IMPD declared a state of emergency and told protesters via a megaphone that anyone left on the street would be arrested.
There were reports of three officers with minor injuries and two protesters with serious injuries.
Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper. Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.