news   |   bloomington   |   politics

A man and his megaphone silence the mayor’s State of the City address



_DSC0179

Vauhxx Booker and Steven Dora use a megaphone to protest the recent purchase of an armored truck by the Bloomington Police Department. The protest took place during Thursday’s State of the City Address, and led to the early adjournment of the special session. Sam House Buy Photos

Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton’s State of the City address began Thursday night, but his planned speech was never finished.

The mayor opened by talking about the Parkland, Florida, school shooting which happened Wednesday afternoon. He quickly moved on to address a hot topic in Bloomington, the city’s purchase of an armored vehicle.

xHe said legitimate concerns had been raised about the purchase.

“I think we in government collectively did not air enough of those questions and concerns publicly early enough, and were making up time now,” he said.

VIDEO BY ROSE BYTHROW | IDS

Vauhxx Booker stood up.

Booker, 34, organized a Facebook event called “#Blacklivesmatter Disrupts the State.” after a meeting Tuesday where the Bloomington Police Department addressed the purchase of the vehicle.

The city and BPD were aware of the planned protest. Two volunteers stood outside the Buskirk-Chumley Theater before the address handing out fliers that said “Just Say NO! To Militarized Policing.”


A flier reads "Just Say NO! To Militarized Policing." Volunteers for Black Lives Matter passed out these fliers in front of the Buskirk-Chumley Theater on Thursday before Mayor John Hamilton's State of the City address. Courtesy Photo Buy Photos


Before the event, Booker said he expected to be stopped on his way in. He wasn’t. He walked in just before the Fairview Elementary School Choir began singing "Freedom Train."

“You knew we were going to come here tonight,” Booker said as he stood to interrupt the mayor’s speech. “We don’t want a war machine on our streets.”

A chant of “Black lives matter” began in the audience. A counter-chant of “Let him finish” followed, but was soon drowned out.

One man said, “All lives matter.”

“All lives can’t matter until black lives matter,” a protester shouted back at him. 

Al Manns, an attorney and current candidate for judge, moved from his seat to stand in front of the stage and tried to quiet the room.

“All my adult life I have participated in sit-ins and protest,” he said. “I follow Dr. Martin Luther King. I support Black Lives Matter. But I don’t think we should shout down our mayor because we disagree with him.”

Hamilton requested multiple times to be allowed to proceed with his remarks. 

Booker pulled out a megaphone.

Dorothy Granger, president of the Bloomington City Council, called for a 15 minute recess during the address. A shouting match between Booker and some members of City Council began during that time.

Curse words were exchanged. At one point, Booker spoke to City Council member Stephen Volan through the megaphone even though he stood only a few feet away.

Manns said in some societies, Booker would have been shot for his form of protest. 

“He can't win this crowd like that,” he said.

Hamilton tried to resume his speech after the recess. He started on script and seemed to address the protesters at one point. It wasn’t possible to hear what he was saying.

Granger adjourned the meeting and said the debate was just another sign of democracy. 

“We have a very healthy democracy in this city,” Granger said after the event was over.

Cake celebrating the city's bicentennial was served as the audience left. The city's birthday was meant to be the final focus of Hamilton's address. An address he never finished.


Bloomington government interns cut cake after the State of the City address Thursday night at the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre. The protests against Bloomington’s armored vehicle interrupted the speech and caused it to end early. Rose Bythrow Buy Photos


Booker said there were about 70 people in the audience who were there for his cause. He said they would have marched and made signs, but they didn’t think it would be as effective.

“You have to create discomfort in another way,” he said.

The IDS received an advance copy of the mayor’s speech. He made it to page four of 18. 

Community Access Television Services posted a video of Thursday’s State of the City address. It’s difficult to hear the protesters in the video aside from Booker — amplified through a megaphone — and some of the chants.  

The City of Bloomington's official Twitter account tweeted the next morning just after 8 a.m. that the State of the City “in complete form” was live on CATS.

The mayor recorded the remarks he prepared for Thursday night at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater on Friday morning.

The public was not invited to this redo of the speech. There is no indication in the video itself that it was not Hamilton's initial speech to the crowd Thursday.

“I’m talking to everyone. Here in the community, in this room, far beyond — all in the community,” he said at one point in the recording.

This story has been updated to include information about two separate videos of the State of the City address posted on the Community Access Television Services website.

A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled the name of attorney Al Manns. The IDS regrets this error.

Like what you're reading? Support independent, award-winning college journalism on this site. Donate here.

More in News



Comments powered by Disqus