A car drove through a crowd and hit two protesters just before 9:30 p.m. Monday night as Bloomington residents were dispersing on Walnut Street after three and a half hours of peaceful protest. The protest was in response to the attack on Vauhxx Booker at Lake Monroe on the Fourth of July.
The bright red Toyota Corolla carried a woman and a man on its hood for two blocks, from the intersection of Walnut and Fourth streets to the intersection of Walnut and Sixth streets, where the car turned and both were thrown from the vehicle. Geoff Stewart , 35, suffered abrasions on his arms and was not in need of medical assistance but said that when he got up to check on the woman who had also been on the front of the car, she was unresponsive.
Bystander Peter Oren said he knew the woman, who later identified herself as Chaz Mottinger, 29, in a social media statement late Monday night. He was talking with police and said that he had heard she was conscious but had received an isolated head injury. Mottinger was taken away on a stretcher, and a pool of blood was left in the street, which emergency response officials promptly covered with a gravel-like substance.
The protest began at 5:30 p.m. with several hundred people gathered at the square holding signs, wearing masks and listening to speakers from various community activist groups and individuals share their stories and demands. The Uptown Cafe set up a table with cups of cold water for protesters, and chants of “How much hate are you willing to tolerate?” drifted across the street.
People associated with activist groups including Black Lives Matter Bloomington and Enough is Enough said that the protest had not been organized by any one group but was more of an organic reaction to Booker’s attack. Booker was at Lake Monroe on Saturday when he and other witnesses say he was attacked by a group of men with Confederate flags who talked about getting a noose as they beat him up.
“The first thing they tell you about Bloomington is that it’s this little blue dot in Indiana, that it’s a safe place,” said Caleb Poer, an IU political science student, artist and activist with Enough is Enough. “I knew it wasn’t when I was in elementary school and a kid told me he couldn’t be my friend because his mom said I was Black.”
Two members of the Black Lives Matter Core Council, who do not speak to the media as named individuals, said they had come to the protest to ensure that the focus was on systemic problems rather than solely on Booker’s individual incident.
“We’ve seen a series of escalating instances, and the next one might end up with someone dead,” one council member said. “To prevent that, we need to address the system now.”
The instances they were referring to were a series of events that began June 24 when a group of IU football players claimed they were racially profiled after they were reported for yelling profanities at a boat flying a Trump flag. Then, local basketball player Darwin “Dee” Davis tweeted that July 2 a sheriff stopped and questioned him while he was walking around his Bloomington neighborhood.
The council members said that these recent incidents were symptoms of a longer-term problem, though, and mentioned a 2012 Ku Klux Klan rally on the same courthouse lawn as the protest and the ongoing controversy about vendor at the city farmers market with ties to a white supremacist organization.
“If we had addressed it properly back then, we would have never gotten to this place,” said a core council council member. “But white liberalism, white civility didn’t want to deal with it. And now the chickens have come home to roost.”
At around 7 p.m., the protesters marched around downtown, blocking roads as they walked down Kirkwood Avenue, past city hall and pausing for a while in front of the jail before returning to the square. Chants included, “If you’re racist on these streets, you will get your ass beat,” “Say his name. Vauhxx Booker” and “Blue lives don’t exist,” among many others.
After returning to the square, protesters sat in the middle of Walnut Street while leaders gave final remarks. Patrick Ford, a local organizer and IU alumnus, told people to head home around 9 p.m. because he wanted to end the night on a high point. Just minutes later, as the crowd was clearing out, the driver drove into protesters walking away from the square.
Stewart was carried two blocks on the front of the car before he was thrown off with Mottinger. Stewart said that 15 years of judo had prepared him to fall off and he had only minor scrapes and bruising, but he was shaken by the event.
He had been helping direct traffic away from the dispersing protesters when the red car came into the intersection of Fourth and Walnut streets. Stewart said that one of the people directing traffic spoke to the driver, who witnesses Milo Hicks and Tess Given said was a white woman in her 40s. Stewart said the driver ignored the alternate route suggestion, and someone else said they saw the driver mouth, “I’m gonna run them over” before the driver began driving the vehicle into the people directing the flow of traffic, knocking over an electric scooter.
He said a man, also identified by Hicks and Given as white and in his 40s, then got out of the passenger side and threw the scooter. Mottinger, who was later thrown off the car, was standing in front of the car with her hands on the hood at this point, and Stewart said he heard the driver rev the car’s engine so he stood in front with her. He does not personally know her.
The driver then hit the gas, carrying both of them on the hood of the car up Walnut Street at a high speed, running three red lights. Stewart said that he held onto the driver’s side mirror and the windshield wipers trying to block the driver’s view so that she would slow down, and then they were both thrown away from the car as it turned right down Sixth Street.
Protesters in cars, on bikes and scooters and on foot tried to follow the car as it sped away. Bystanders said that one woman had an asthma attack while running, which led to initial confusion about where the injured woman, Mottinger, was.
Law enforcement stopped a different red car on SixthStreet with two young Black women in it, but protesters quickly told them it was the wrong car. The identities of the driver and passenger are currently unknown, but the car’s license plate number was recorded.
Members of a group called Citizens Protest Response and Safety based in Indianapolis worked with local groups to coordinate safety efforts during the protest. Several cars with Black Lives Matter labels and red crosses parked between the protesters and traffic while CPRS members and others directed passing cars to turn. However, the cars in this protective role had dispersed when the red car drove through.
One CPRS member, who would only give his name as Richard, carried a large gun that he said was intended to deter white supremacists. He added that he felt guilty because the organization was there to protect people, and he said that in the future, the defensive cars would stay until all protesters and pedestrians were off the streets, even after protests had officially ended.
“This isn’t the end,” he said. “We’re going to learn from this.”
One of Mottinger's friends started a GoFundMe to raise $10,000 for medical expenses. In three hours, it had received over $10,000 from 220 individuals. The friend tweeted that Mottinger was OK and that tests were being run and called on people to identify the driver. The GoFundMe was later updated to note that the woman had a concussion but would be OK and to say that any excess funds would be donated to BLM and other Black-led organizations.
In a late-night Facebook post shared by a family member on Twitter, Mottinger said that she is fine and does not want to take attention away from Booker. She said that she jumped in front of the car without thinking because she was scared they were going to drive into other protesters. She also called on people to continue to support Booker and other Black Bloomingtonians.
UPDATE: This story has been updated with information from a police report.