Black Lives Matter and pro-police protesters clashed Saturday night outside of Monroe County Courthouse, amid onlookers and those dining in nearby downtown restaurants.
More than 200 protesters stood near the courthouse around 6 p.m. to show support for law enforcement during the Red, White and Blue rally Saturday and carried American flags, Blue Lives Matter flags and signs that read, “I support law and order.” One protester wore a “Trump 2020” flag as a cape while others wore shirts that read “Defend the Police.”
Around 6:30 p.m., protesters drove trucks, vans, and motorcycles onto Kirkwood Avenue in front of the courthouse and created a blockade to allow the rally to take place. Protesters began to chant “U.S.A,” and a protester with a guitar performed the national anthem before the speeches began.
Speakers such as Jeff Ellington, former member of the Monroe County Council and current representative for the Indiana House of Representatives, and Robert Hall, a former Indiana congressional candidate addressed the crowd from the hood of a Redneck News truck. According to its Facebook page, Redneck News is a personal blog that calls itself “the only news you can trust.”
Hall spoke out against the effectiveness of masks and the COVID-19 restrictions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported masks are effective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus. Some protesters there for the rally were wearing masks, but most weren’t. He said the lockdown created an environment in which the public “riots.”
“Our governor and mayor launched us on a downward spiral to anarchy resulting in a loss of respect for the law,” Hall said. “It’s time to restore our rights and our way of life, or we will continue to spiral downward, giving up more and more of both our liberty and our security.”
Some people watched from across the street, such as Morgan Ketterer, an IU sophomore. Ketterer said she and a group were on their way to dinner when they drove by the rally.
“Being a police officer is a job, not a life,” she said. “You get to come home everyday and take off your vest and take off the gun and go to sleep. Being Black? You live with that every single day.”
Just after 7 p.m., a group of about 10 counter protesters crossed Walnut Street chanting “Black Lives Matter” and holding signs with similar messages. They walked in a line in front of the courthouse while the protesters at the Red, White and Blue rally chanted, “U.S.A.”
Some protesters fought physically, according to a YouTube livestream of the event. Many times throughout the night, protesters on both sides yelled at each other.
Thomas Byrd, a Black Lives Matter protester, said he was hurt at the event. Byrd told the IDS that he was helping a Black Lives Matter protester up from the ground when he was punched by an opposing protester. He said he tried to fight back against the opposing protesters in self defense. Byrd left the altercation with a bloody lip.
A video taken by an IDS reporter shows a truck blowing its exhaust at Black Lives Matter protesters around 7:30 p.m. at the rally.
As speeches ended around 7:40 p.m., some Red, White and Blue protesters left and dissolved the blockade. Those who remained continued to yell at the opposing group across Walnut Street.
Around 8:20 p.m., two Black Lives Matter protesters were seen on the hood of a moving car, according to tweets. It's unclear whether they jumped on the hood or the motion of the car caused it.
Bloomington Police Department officers showed up around 8:30 p.m. and blocked off the surrounding intersections, according to tweets.
Police said Sunday they responded after receiving calls reporting harassment and assault at the event.
By 8:45 p.m., most attendees had left.
Avraham Forrest and Nic Napier contributed to this reporting.
This story was updated 8:25 p.m. Sunday to include additional information about Saturday's events.