news   |   bloomington

Protesters say mayor’s decision on armored truck will not end discussion


Senior Stanley Njuguna, center, leads a protest March 28 toward City Hall in protest of the purchase of the Lenco Bearcat armored vehicle by the city of Bloomington. Njuguna was arrested Sept. 5 for protesting at the hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Matt Begala Buy Photos

A group of protesters went to shut down a City Council meeting Wednesday night. The meeting lasted five minutes. 

Only three of the nine City Council members stayed to speak with the protesters.

The group of#BlackLivesMatter Coalition for Social Justice members who marched from the Monroe County Courthouse to City Hall on Wednesday wanted to shut down the meeting in protest of the city’s plan to purchase an armored truck. 

They did not shut down the meeting. It was over before they arrived.

Stanley Njuguna, an IU junior and member of the Young Democratic Socialists of America, the group that organized the march, started chants through a megaphone as the group headed toward City Hall.

“Show me what democracy looks like,” he yelled. “This is what democracy looks like,” the crowd of about 50 responded. 

Members of Black Lives Matter, the Peace Vigil, and Antifa were among the throng of people. Some held signs and others waved flags.

Cars honked at the group as it marched down Sixth Street. People yelled from windows. Children peered out of restaurants.

Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Council Vice President & District V Representative, discusses the city’s purchase of the Lenco Bearcat G2 with members of Bloomington’s Black Lives Matter. Piedmont-Smith, alongside Parliamentarian Stephen Volan, answered questions throughout the evening concerning the purchase.   Matt Begala Buy Photos

When they arrived to find the meeting was over, Black Lives Matter member Jada Bee said the City Council was using what she called Donald Trump’s techniques of run-and-hide.

Three city council members — Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Stephen Volan and Andy Ruff — lingered to speak with protesters.

“I couldn’t remember whether I had input on it,” Volan said of the truck’s purchase. “It turns out I didn’t.”

Piedmont-Smith said the other council members were aware the protest was going to happen. Ruff said the length of the meeting was not related to the protest since there was only one thing on the agenda.

Volan leaned against the council’s bench. Piedmont-Smith pulled a chair out and faced the audience. Ruff remained in his council chair.

“I think we have a lot of work to do,” Piedmont-Smith said. “More work than I thought.”

The initial announcement of the Lenco BearCat G2’s purchase was that it was a done deal. The papers had been signed and the $225,000 forked over.

Then the protests began.

City officials began scrambling to orchestrate public meetings. Meetings were put on the calendar. The protests continued.

Wednesday night, protesters called for council members to do whatever it takes over the next 24 hours to stop the truck’s purchase. Some suggested they quit their jobs or start a local government shutdown.

Mayor John Hamilton said he would announce his decision on the controversial truck by the end of the month. Since this Friday is Good Friday and April 1 falls on a Sunday, Volan said it’s likely Hamilton will make his announcement Thursday.

Protesters encouraged all three remaining council members to call the mayor Wednesday night. Volan said he didn’t know whether that would help.

“It would be meaningful to us,” Bee said.

Each council member who remained Wednesday was careful to note they could only speak for themselves. Volan and Piedmont-Smith denounced the purchase. Ruff said he supports the truck’s purchase but recognizes the flawed process that led to it.

“I’m trying to listen as much as possible,” he said.

If the purchase does go through and the truck arrives in Bloomington, protesters said they will not stop. They made plans to push for legislation that would ensure the truck could not be used against civilians.

Black Lives Matter Bloomington organizer Vauhxx Booker said the group will shut down public meetings until the issue of police militarization is solved.

“We’ll march on the mayor’s house if he doesn’t move to protect us,” he said.

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

More in News

Comments powered by Disqus