A nearly hour-long standoff between demonstrators and Indiana State Police (ISP) June 1 ended after ISP officers momentarily removed their riot gear.
Late in the afternoon June 1, protesters began a march they hoped would take them to the governor’s mansion. A group of roughly 50 people on foot marched, carrying signs reading messages such as “Black lives matter” and “Blue lives murder” and were trailed by a procession of roughly 80 cars as the protest made its way through downtown.
With car horns blaring and chants of “Hands up, don’t shoot” echoing through the crowd, police were on high alert. While members of the Indiana National Guard Reactionary Force stood guard near Monument Circle, officers from ISP and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) were attempting to follow the crowd. Protest organizers were streaming much of the procession on Facebook Live, but never revealed their exact location.
As they walked toward the governor’s mansion, protesters noticed a line of over a dozen ISP patrol cars blocking off 46th Street. One protester draped in a flag reading “Don’t tread on me” stopped the group and informed them, “They don’t want us to reach the governor’s mansion!” and encouraged the group to continue to move forward and confront the police.
As the crowd advanced toward the group of well over 40 officers, all in riot gear, it was roughly 15 minutes after the 8 p.m. curfew imposed by Mayor Joe Hogsett. As they reached the line of officers, many demonstrators took a knee, raising their hands in the air screaming “Hands up, don’t shoot!”
After that, amid the chanting of the crowd, conversations took place: Protesters speaking to fellow protesters, and protesters speaking with officers. At several points, tension arose as words were exchanged. Organizers of the demonstration, however, worked to deescalate the situation, telling members of the crowd to step back. About 30 minutes into the standoff, officers deployed a low-dose pepper ball into the crowd after they said a few demonstrators crossed a threshold that was established by officers earlier in the demonstration.
At one point, protester Anthony Brown stood between police and members of the demonstration, trying to bridge understanding between both groups.
“I was saying, you guys swore you were going to protect and serve,” Brown said. “And, a bunch of people were asking them to serve with us, hand in hand. They did that. I would love to see more cops come out and do that.”
Brown said he hopes this protest will create “listening ears and change,” and said protesters were giving officers examples of what laws they think should be changed and how to move forward.
Nearly an hour after the standoff began, ISP officers briefly removed their riot gear and lowered their batons and weapons, seemingly signaling to protesters they heard what they were saying. Loud cheers and applause erupted from the crowd, and several members of the demonstration approached police to shake hands and exchange hugs. Others in the crowd, however, viewed the removal of riot gear as an empty gesture and were upset with protesters for engaging with police.
Mat Davis, an organizer who read a list of demands to police and led chants, told demonstrators to not shake hands and hug police.
He led chants of “Stop hugging the police!” as people made their way back toward downtown on Meridian.
Police followed behind in squad cars most of the way, and they were posted at many intersections.
The original plan was to walk to 16th Street in order to avoid downtown, but many people were parked downtown.
They continued to Vermont Street, where Davis, who talked with police earlier, told the group that officers said people would be able to walk to their cars and go home.
“They’ve definitely given us the green light to be able to do that,” Davis said, stopping the group. “We don’t have anything else. I gotta make sure that none of y’all get maced, billy-clubbed, beat up, arrested or none of that. Once we’ve splitten up, we’ve been given the word that they won’t do anything.”
Then he harkened back to one of the most common chants of the night: “Can I ask you a question?” he repeated. “Have the police ever deescalated a m**********n’ thing!”
Everyone shouted no.
Shortly after, people split into smaller groups in order to stay together as they left, with most clearing the area by about 11 p.m.
Contact staff writers Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper. Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-78523. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.
“We need laws … we need justice,” four young activists said at a recent rally. (Photo/Breanna Cooper)