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Indianapolis protest started peacefully, escalated quickly



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A protester stands on a knocked over vending machine May 30 in downtown Indianapolis. Protesters ran around the streets avoiding police tear gas. Alex Deryn

The second day of protests in Indianapolis brought several hours of peaceful protest, but quickly escalated as the sun set, culminating in one person being shot and killed and at least two others others being shot according to the IndyStar.

The crowd at the Indiana War Memorial went up the stairs and spilled across the street into nearby University Park at 7 p.m. Two women stood on the hood of a car and yelled the names of black people who have been killed by police.

“Justice for Trayvon Martin, justice for Michael Brown, justice for Sean Reed.”

A black woman with two young girls in tow pushed through the crowd.

“You gotta keep up, you’re not a baby, you’re a big girl now,” she told the smaller of the two.

Over 1,000 people attended the march Saturday evening to protest the killing of George Floyd on May 25 by a Minneapolis police officer, who’s death sparked protests nationwide. Sean Reed, an Indianapolis man killed by police May 6 and Breonna Taylor, a Kentucky woman killed by police March 13, and others who have been recently killed by police were also on protesters minds. The protest started out peacefully, but escalated sharply around 9 p.m. 

Protesters broke windows and police used tear gas to disperse the crowd, but the order of events was unclear to our reporters.

At 7:30 p.m., protesters began marching. They made loops on blocks east of the war memorial for almost two hours, passing boarded up businesses from the previous night’s looting. People leaned out of windows and over balconies, taking photos and videos.

“If you can watch, you can walk,” one woman shouted.

Most people who attended were from Indianapolis but some, like Portia Smith from Kentucky, were from out of town.

“I’m here to support,” she said.

Gygy Oliver, 42, attended the march as a frustrated mother of two black daughters and a black stepson. She brought her 13-year-old daughter Jendayi Oliver.

“It’s getting hard, as someone who’s raising their kids right and educated and to be polite and have manners and to do everything right and still feel like it’s not enough,” Oliver said. “That they could still get killed or beat up or harassed by police. It’s getting difficult.”

DiQuan Craig, 26, works with students at the Indianapolis Job Corps Center and attended the march in response to recent police brutality events.

“We just want to be loved, man, and shown the respect everybody else is getting, that’s all it is,” he said.

Nick, a white recent IU graduate, locked arms with other white protesters at the intersection of Delaware Street and Massachusetts Avenue.

“I don’t want anyone to get hurt,” he said. “I’m a white body, they’re not going to hit a white body.”

Aaron Nell, who does nonviolence training in prisons, ran along the crowd, writing phrases like “Hero’s don’t Kill” in pink chalk on sidewalks and concrete walls.

“The killing of people of color and the racist attitudes that are being shared from the high levels all the way down to the average person are leading to people dying,” he said. “And I want to be in solidarity with those who say it has to stop.”

Cheryl John, 41, heard about the protest on TV and decided to attend for “justice and peace.” It was her first protest and she said she only was going to support it if it stayed peaceful.

It didn’t.

Tear gas rolls down the street May 30 in Indianapolis. Police used tear gas to break up the protest, which was in response to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25. Alex Deryn

Tensions began to rise as protesters turned onto East Market Street from North Delaware Street. Protesters banged on the City County Building with their hands and others began getting into shouting matches with drivers trying to pass through the crowd as well as fellow protesters for detracting from the peaceful protest. 

Protesters continued down East Market Street to where it intersected North Alabama Street, blocking off traffic. Police made their way to the intersection, and suddenly banging sounds were heard and tear gas filled the air. People began running as tear gas canisters were thrown and shot through the air.

There is much uncertainty as to who began the conflict with the police. Some protesters say the police shot off the gas first, others say a protester threw something at police which provoked them.

Jake, a protester who was within the intersection, later recounted that he did not see anything thrown at police but got tear gas in his eyes twice as police cleared people who were blocking the streets.

"It's not much of an excuse, I would say," Jake said.

The police continued north on Delaware and Alabama Streets with tear gas, and protesters broke glass in several storefronts on Alabama Street.

Protesters with tear gas in their eyes struggled to find the friends they had lost in the run to escape the gas. One person frantically asked around for an inhaler. Many were talking on phones, trying to reconnect with fellow protesters or assure others they were OK.

“It’s fucked up down here,” one man said into his phone. “Real fucked up.”

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