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Police, protesters meet in weekend scuffle

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Two police officers sustained minor injuries and seven people were arrested after a Nov. 12 protest that began at the Indiana Statehouse moved through downtown Indianapolis and splintered into smaller groups.

The Trump Resistance Rally drew crowds to the capitol for a scheduled gathering from 5–8 p.m., and Major Richard Riddle, speaking on behalf of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD), said the event stayed peaceful.

But just after 9 p.m., IMPD tweeted that the department’s Emergency Response Group had been dispatched to an “unruly” protest and three arrests had been made.

 

In the aftermath, police and protesters are telling different stories about what happened, with officers insisting protesters threw rocks, and many protesters saying they saw someone throw a water bottle, but never saw any rocks thrown. IMPD Chief Troy Riggs said police heard some reports of people showing up to the protest with backpacks full of rocks, and investigators were seeking more details about those reports.

Dozens of videos posted on social media show some of what happened: the sounds of pepper balls being shot at protesters, officers chasing and tackling one protester, a horse-mounted officer riding his horse into a group of protesters on a sidewalk along Washington Street, an officer on a loud speaker repeatedly ordering the crowd to disperse, and protesters chanting “Let her go!” in reference to a woman police had taken into custody.

The woman in question, Leah Humphrey, is an organizer with Indy10, the local arm of the Black Lives Matter movement. Humphrey said she was marching with a group and leading chants through a bullhorn when her arrest happened.

“We turned the corner, and there were police. One pointed at me, and some people tried to block me from getting arrested. I fell to the ground, (police) started macing everyone and shooting off the pepper spray gun,” she said. 

Humphrey was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

“I didn’t resist anything,” she said. “I laid down.”

Though the reactions of protesters in the videos indicate disapproval of police actions, Riggs said he is pleased with how his officers handled the situation.

 “Obviously if people are starting to throw rocks, we have to take action. At that point, you’re pretty close to having a riot situation. … Those officers on the scene made the right decision to move in when they did,” he said.

He added that some of the questionable tactics — specifically the officer riding a horse into the crowd — had to be considered in the broader context of the situation.

“In the videos that I saw, that was after the rocks were being thrown. Officers were placing some people under arrest. Part of the crowd was rushing toward the officer, and the horse was able to move them back. No one got injured,” he said. 

But Riggs said the department will take another look at all of the officers’ actions, which is standard procedure even when an intervention is considered a success.

“We will re-evaluate everything from that night. … There are some operational things that we have learned from this that we’ll put in place … to strengthen any weaknesses we have,” he said. “If it’s something we need to improve on, we will.”

Looking ahead, Riggs said a group within the department has already been reviewing IMPD’s use of force policy, and he anticipates learning the group’s conclusions in the coming days.

Humphrey said she is also looking ahead.

“I’m really excited to organize past this. Now we’re just ready to build and move forward.”

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