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Protesters take to the streets again demanding justice for Booker, local action on policing



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Protesters march July 7 up Kirkwood Avenue toward the Sample Gates. Instead of turning onto Dunn Street like the evening before, the group marched all the way to Indiana Avenue before turning right and right again onto Third Street. Sam House

A day after a still-unidentified woman drove through protesters and caused one to be taken to the hospital, protesters were back on the streets.

The protest, co-led by Enough is Enough, Black Lives Matter Bloomington and other Black community members, started at 5:30 p.m. and ended around 9 p.m., much like Monday's protest. This time, however, protesters left without any threats to their safety.

The organizers demanded justice for Vauhxx Booker, who was assaulted on the Fourth of July at Lake Monroe by people who allegedly said “get a noose” while holding Booker down and were caught on video saying racist slurs. Booker’s attorney announced Tuesday afternoon that the FBI had opened an investigation into Booker’s attack as a hate crime.

Caleb Poer, an IU political science student, artist and activist with Enough is Enough, was one of the speakers at the Monroe County Courthouse before the protesters marched around town. He thanked everyone who was at the protest Monday night and helped try to find the car that was driven into protesters or helped the woman who was injured.

But Poer was disappointed in the ultimate focus in the media on the driver’s attack on protesters instead of the peaceful protest and the demands they made.

“I saw the brave people of this state and this community come together, I saw solidarity, I saw peace and most of all, I saw a change, a change being vocalized,” Poer said. “But unfortunately a violent couple of racists stole the narrative from right under our feet.” 

He reiterated the demands of the protesters including ending the war on drugs, ending over-policing, more community oversight of the police, independent investigations on police misconduct and selling Bloomington Police Department's armored vehicle and reinvesting the money into the community.

Salina Tesfagiorgis, IU student and a leader in Enough is Enough, said close to 200,000 people have contacted the Monroe County prosecutor’s office about Vauhxx Booker’s attack, urging Monroe County prosecutor Erika Oliphant to take action.

“It’s time to get to the DNR, who have presented multiple counts of racism, not just the two that we heard about recently,” Tesfagiorgis said.

A couple speakers talked about Denver Smith, a Black IU student who was shot multiple times and killed by Bloomington police officers in 1983 after being reported for acting in a threatening manner and taking an officer’s gun, according to an account by the New York Times based on the police record. They also spoke about Joseph Smedley, a Black IU student whose body was found in Lake Griffy with a backpack strapped to his chest with over 60 pounds of rocks in it. His death was ruled a suicide but his family has expressed doubt that the investigation was complete. Speakers said they deserve justice too.

IU professor Amrita Chakrabarti Myers, a historian of the Black female experience in the United States, told protesters to think hard about why they were there.

“I know y’all have been locked up for several months because of COVID, but this does not substitute going out to the restaurants or you know, your frat party, can I just be clear?” Myers said. “Because some of us, we don’t get to put this shit away because this is a life-long endeavor.”

Indiana District 3 Senator Eddie Melton, who is Black, was at the protest to show support and talk about the governor’s inaction on legislation aimed at banning police choke holds and racial profiling. He urged people to make sure state officials take action.

“I commend the organizers for having the demands put forth to local government, county government, but don’t forget about our state government,” he said.

Many speakers also urged people to vote in the coming election.

As protesters marched around town, some people stood along the route to clap, wave signs and raise fists in support. Maria Garcia was one of them. As a Mexican immigrant, she said she feels connected to the cause because immigrants experience racism too.

“We come from Mexico, and we come to work,” she said. “Some people say we come here and take jobs but, no, we’re coming to work.”

The volunteer security group Citizens Protest Response and Safety was again present at the protest with several armed men walking with protesters. Others, some connected to CPRS and some not, were in cars and on bikes blocking off streets that intersected with streets the protesters were walking on. Some protesters gawked at the size of the armed CPRS security volunteers’ guns but resident Andrew Hutchings was thankful they were there in support.

Hutchings was riding his bike in the protest with his 14-year-old French bulldog Luna in the crate attached to the front. Hutchings is a recent transplant from Chicago and said it’s common there for bikers to participate in protests and stop in intersections to protect protesters from drivers.

“I like seeing all these other guys out here with assault rifles that are actually on the side of the Black Lives Matter movement, rather than have a bunch of Billy Bob redneck racists with their guns trying to intimidate people,” he said.

One of the leaders of CPRS who identifies himself as Bear said the group is from Indianapolis and formed because of its participation in the protests there.

“We all came together from the protests and being tear-gassed and firsthand witnessing the brutality of the IMPD and the state police,” Bear said to the crowd. “We are here for you guys 100%, we are here to keep you safe.”

Richard, another leader of CPRS, said the security team made changes to their plan for Tuesday to try to ensure no one would get hurt like Monday night. They offered escorts back to cars or homes after the protest was over.

One of the protest organizers Patrick Ford tweeted a statement Wednesday saying he did not ask or give permission for armed CPRS security volunteers to be at the protests Monday and Tuesday. He said on both days, he was only informed they were coming or were already there. At the protest Tuesday, Ford introduced the security volunteers as people who were there to keep protesters safe.

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