The Courthouse Square lawn has been a temporary home to several activists and people experiencing homelessness for over a week as protests over the killing of George Floyd and other acts of police brutality continue.
The sheriff gave protesters notice Monday night that they must evict the property by 10 p.m. Tuesday. Personal property must be removed by Friday according to a press release, but orders were given by the county legal department to begin enforcing hours of the courthouse property Tuesday night.
About 100 protesters showed up to the Courthouse Square on Tuesday night to protest the eviction. There was chanting and dancing, but no sheriff until 2 a.m., hours after protesters expected them to come and after many had left.
According to a press release sent by the sheriff the next morning, Sheriff Brad Swain and twelve deputies asked about 30 people to move to the sidewalk, and they all complied. All tents had been taken down by the time the deputies arrived. A small group of protesters stayed the night on the sidewalk and deputies stayed on the courthouse property until 6 a.m. to enforce the hours. No arrests were made.
The property, which is owned by the county, is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m, according to Chapter 262 in Monroe County code. If people are using the grounds beyond those hours, they may be charged with trespassing. In Chapter 257, the county also states that camping is not allowed on county property unless approved by commissioners.
At nearly 11 p.m., when many of the protesters were still present and the sheriff had not yet arrived, Patrick Ford, protest coordinator and IU alumnus, told protesters to think of the night as a victory.
“When we show in numbers, our voices are heard and the system is scared of us,” Ford said.
Ford said the county has been very lenient with protesters and that they planned to be mostly off the lawn by 10 p.m. But some protesters wanted to stay on the lawn.
Crow, a man experiencing homelessness, said he would be staying on the lawn as long it didn’t endanger his friends’ lives.
“Am I afraid to get arrested for a cause such as this?” Crow said. “I’ve seen a lot more shit worse than prison.”
But no one ended up staying on the lawn or getting arrested.
Crow has been staying with protesters on the courthouse lawn for the past week, sleeping in a hammock, leading chants, helping distribute food and drinks and making a lot of friends. He came to Bloomington from Columbus, Indiana, last week after he lost his job in a finishing plant painting appliances. Within 30 minutes of being in town, he met protesters who welcomed him into their group.
“Before I came here, I was a lonely alcoholic, I had no aspirations for my life whatsoever, I just accepted the fact that I was going to die alone with a bottle in my hand,” Crow said. “I came out here and I have been approached with so much love and acceptance and respect and dignity as a human being by these fine people here.”
Crow was inspired to put his time and energy into the protests by his girlfriend who is Black but has diabetes, which has kept her quarantined during the pandemic and unable to attend protests.
He said she is worried about him but he wants to fight for her.
Protester Abdul Wasi said as more and more people experiencing homelessness came to join the activists camping out on the courthouse lawn, protesters have been getting to know them and collecting donations for them.
“I’ve just been listening to them, you know, taking time to hear their stories, actually sit down with them and let them know that not only do they have food, but they have someone to actually listen to them and help them out,” Wasi said.
Wasi said the homeless population’s presence has been a statement of their support for the movement, which has meant something to him and Ford.
“I think if people in the hardest of times can show compassion for others, then I think anyone can do that,” Ford said.
Ford, who has lived in Bloomington for about 20 years, said he knows several of the sheriff deputies and has had good experiences with them. He said a deputy told him yesterday that the sheriff department supports the Black Lives Matter movement, they were just following orders to give them the eviction notice.
Swain said in an interview Wednesday that deputies will be enforcing the hours of the courthouse property from now on.
"The protesters were wonderful to work with," Swain said. "It was just time for it to come to an end past 10 o'clock."