A man drove his SUV through a group of protesters Saturday morning as they marched down Sixth Street waving signs against white nationalism at the Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market.
No one was seriously hurt, even after the driver got out of his SUV to confront the 40 or so anti-fascists, also called antifa, and No Space for Hate demonstrators who were still a couple blocks from their final destination of the market.
They stopped traffic as they walked down streets from the Monroe County Courthouse to the farmers market in protest of the presence of Schooner Creek Farm, a vendor whose owners have been connected to white nationalism through the American Identity Movement, formerly called Identity Evropa.
As the marchers walked down the middle of Sixth Street, Brad Clapper drove a GMC Terrain toward the protesters near Bloomingfoods before slamming on his brakes. He started yelling at the group to get out of the street and onto the sidewalk.
“I got little kids, and you’re scaring them to death,” Clapper said.
The 41-year-old from Judah, Indiana, said in a Saturday evening interview that he knew generally the recent farmers market controversy but said his actions weren’t about politics.
He said he turned onto the street looking for a place to park for the market, and suddenly he saw a “mob” of people, about half of them dressed in the antifa uniform of all black clothing and covered faces, blocking the street and scaring his 6- and 8-year-old sons.
If they had been on the sidewalk, he said he would have likely ignored them, but they were in his way and he felt he had no choice but to keep going forward.
Abby Ang, who is an activist in No Space for Hate and was not dressed in black with antifa, said the SUV seemed to appear out of nowhere.
Because the protesters were walking down the middle of streets, Ang said she thought traffic could be a problem but figured any issue would be more likely near the square where there are more cars.
Although Clapper said he was only going 5 to 10 mph when he drove toward the group, it seemed fast to Ang.
“I did not see his car until he was right there,” Ang said. “It’s something that can happen very quickly.”
A few antifa members surrounded Clapper’s door when he stopped. No Space for Hate posted on Facebook that someone was clipped by Clapper’s side mirror when he drove through, but he said they pushed the mirror in and banged on his hood.
He got out of the SUV and started arguing with the antifa members, pulling at a bandana covering one person’s face.
“Take the mask off,” Clapper said.
The antifa member wearing the bandana swatted Clapper’s hand away, and others started yelling back. A few tried to deescalate the situation, but Clapper and many of the others kept yelling.
“Get the fuck on the sidewalk,” Clapper said.
Clapper went back toward his SUV at one point while he and antifa members continued to yell at each other.
As the protest group started to walk away, Clapper said someone called him a pussy, and he got back out and pushed a few antifa members, who pushed back before Clapper eventually turned around, got back in his car and drove off. He also yelled his name to the group and other witnesses, including at least one person taking a cellphone video.
Clapper said he thinks he could have handled the situation better, but he said his intention was not to be violent. He considers antifa a hate group because of past violence from the group in other parts of the country.
“Maybe I’m naïve, I just never felt like it was going to lead to anybody getting killed or sent to the hospital,” Clapper said.
Ang said Clapper scared her by driving at the group, and it made her think about the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, when a protester was run over by a car and killed.
“His level of anger was very extreme,” Ang said.
Clapper said he went to the Bloomington Police Department afterward for “guidance” about the situation and to have the officers reassure his sons they were safe.
He did not file a police report and said the officers told him there wasn’t much they could do.
Members with antifa and No Space for Hate told at least one person not to call the police after the altercation ended.
Bloomington Police Sgt. Robert Skelton said no reports had been filed as of Saturday evening.