Logan Collins was surprised when around 150 people turned up outside the Monroe County Courthouse at 6 p.m. in response to a Facebook event he made titled “Justice for George Floyd!”
“I just couldn’t sit at home again tonight and watch the live feed,” said Collins, a transplant from Indianapolis and produce supervisor at Bloomingfoods.
The live feed he referred to was from Minneapolis, where protests have continued since George Floyd diedMay 25 while being restrained by police.
Only 11 people liked the page he created, but one post about the protest was shared over 80 times in the “Bloomington, IN - What’s Going On?” Facebook group.
The Bloomington protest was not organized by any group, and various attendees took turns leading chants such as “Say His Name! George Floyd,” “No racist cops, no KKK. No fascist USA!,” “Down with the cops, down with the klan! We can’t bring them back, but we do what we can!” and “Say Her Name! Breonna Taylor,” referring to a black woman killed by police in March in Louisville, Kentucky, on March 13.
The protesters started out on the east side of the square, at the intersection of Walnut Street and Kirkwood Avenue before heading down to the intersection of College Avenue and Kirkwood Avenue, blocking traffic from getting through CollegeAvenue.
People watched from nearby restaurants.
“This is what democracy looks like,” the protesters chanted.
“This is what idiots look like,” one onlooker responded.
“All lives matter,”another observer shouted.
While protesters were blocking traffic, most cars turned, but two tried to make their way through the crowd. A man driving a large black pick-up truck ran over the foot of Willow Armstrong, a recent high school graduate who moved to Bloomington nine months ago from Florida.
Armstrong said she was trying to persuade the driver to take another route home when he decided to force his way through, running over her foot. She said he allegedly looked at his tire on her foot, backed up and then ran over it again before police showed up and he drove away.
Armstrong added that she would go to a doctor after the protest, saying that it was not worth leaving even though her foot was swollen and getting progressively more painful.
“It would have been great to see more people come and speak out,”Armstrong said.
Sheriff and police officers rushed to the scene when cars were attempting to make their way through the crowd but disbanded after forcing the drivers out of the intersection and directing traffic around the protesters.
Some drivers honked in support or raised fists out their windows while driving by, while a few in large trucks revved their engines and drove past the protesters aggressively quickly.
At around 7:30 p.m., protesters walked north on blocked-off College Avenue to the county jail.
At the jail, protesters stood in the street and chanted “We love you! We support you! You are not alone!” while people inside of the jail banged on windows in response.
Near the end of the protest, the protesters kneeled in silence, some with fists raised, for seven minutes, representing the seven minutes that some reports say Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin allegedly kneeled on Floyd’s neck for, protesters said.
Javier Cardona, an IU doctoral student in arts education from San Juan, Puerto Rico, said he was surprised when he arrived in Bloomington three years ago and saw a white person standing at the intersection of Walnut and Kirkwood with a “Black Lives Matter” sign. On Friday, he once again found himself in a crowd of mostly white people protesting police brutality.
“The killing of men and women of color is an epidemic — at least for people who look like me,” Cardona said. “I jog, I ride my bike; I’m always wondering if people are going to look at me like a dangerous thing.”
Garrett Barrasas, a theater technician at the Cardinal Stage who just moved here from Hobart, Indiana, said he was attending for similar reasons.
“I’m tired of standing around and watching our world go to shit,” he said. “I’m a person of color, and stuff like this happens to people like me. You’re hunted if you go for runs, hunted like dogs. I’m afraid.”
A different protest is being organized for next Friday by people affiliated with the Indiana University Black Student Union, several of whom posted on Twitter saying that today’s protest was a “white movement,” that no black organizations were aware of it and that people should not attend.
Michelle Chase, a black automotive supervisor from Bloomington, said the last time she had been to a protest like this one was in 1997 with her children, protesting the 1992 killing of Malice Green by Detroit police.
“I raised four sons — I’m trying to do this without crying — and I care about them. The police are here to serve and protect, not to brutalize us,” she said. “I don’t think it has anything to do with Trump versus Obama, Democrat versus Republican. I think it has to do with the culture of policing in America.”