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Local leaders react to weekend protests

Protest at Monument Circle.JPG
Posted at 8:42 AM, May 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-01 15:07:58-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and local organization leaders released statements in the days following violent weekend demonstrations in downtown Indianapolis.

Protesters took to the streets of downtown Indianapolis beginning Friday afternoon to stand in solidarity with protests across the country over the death of George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who was killed after an officer was seen kneeling on Floyd's neck for several minutes. The former officer, Derek Chauvin, has since been charged with Floyd's murder.

The protests in downtown Indianapolis began peacefully, but turned violent Friday and Saturday evenings with several buildings being damaged, multiple people shot, and police deploying tear gas to disperse crowds.

On Saturday afternoon, Holcomb released a statement saying "Hoosiers have long been people who find solutions to the challenges we face," but "injuring the innocent in response to an injustice is counterproductive." Holcomb added he asked the Indiana State Police to make resources available to communities around the state.

Holcomb's full statement:

Hoosiers have long been people who find solutions to the challenges we face, whether it be in response to a pandemic or to an injustice like the world witnessed so tragically inflicted upon Mr. George Floyd in Minnesota.

As I stated yesterday, injuring the innocent in response to an injustice is counterproductive. I’ve asked the Indiana State Police to fully support and make resources available to local communities across our state to ensure our citizens and their property remain safe.

In the days ahead, peaceful assembly and clear voices will be important if we are to make progress. Violence and vandalism will set us back in our shared desire to resolve differences. Let us again, each of us, be part of the solution.

On Saturday morning, Hogsett released a statement calling for peaceful protests, and urging the public to "reject the tactics of those who would diminish a movement toward national action into unproductive destruction."

Hogsett's full statement:

Like so many in Indianapolis, I was horrified by the needless killing of George Floyd. I also recognize that the frustration and anger on display over the last few days isn’t new — it has been felt by communities of color for hundreds of years in a country that has far too often fallen short of providing liberty and justice for all.

The systemic racism of our past and present must be acknowledged and addressed. At a successful protest that occurred last night, hundreds of residents did just that, peacefully exercising their right to free speech.

Unfortunately, after the organizers of that event ended the protest, a smaller group of individuals abandoned this message of positive change. I am saddened that so many people and businesses were injured in the violence that ensued. While the emotions that fueled this vandalism may be justified, the actions that were taken and the harm that it has caused are simply unacceptable and did nothing to further the cause of progress.

Last night’s injuries included three law enforcement officers, as well as an individual who received serious injuries while kicking in glass and was saved when an IMPD officer applied a tourniquet and delivered life-saving care. I also want to recognize the actions of the Indianapolis Fire Department to contain multiple fires that were set, as well as our local media that provided necessary journalism under incredibly difficult circumstances.

Our office and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department remain committed to ensuring the safety of peaceful protesters, and I would ask all who speak out in the days that follow to reject the tactics of those who would diminish a movement toward national action into unproductive destruction.

PREVIOUS | WATCH: Downtown Indy protests turn violent, tear gas deployed

Indy Chamber President and CEO Michael Huber said his organization supports peaceful protests, but "violent acts against fellow citizens and local businesses must not continue."

Huber's full statement:

The opportunity to succeed is central to the growth of Indianapolis, and significant barriers including systemic racism threaten this opportunity. We recognize the longstanding anger and frustration that has been building in our city and our nation in response to violent acts against communities of color, and we support peaceful protests that address this injustice and call for change. When reactions turn violent, however, they not only detract from this call, they undermine the important message of the protests, and shift the focus to destruction and injury. Violent acts against fellow citizens and local businesses must not continue.

Indianapolis has proven throughout its history that in challenging times, we embrace our differences and come together to strengthen the ties between our friends and neighbors. Meaningful change must occur to build a truly inclusive economy. We can and will find peaceful resolution, but only if we work together.

PREVIOUS | Officer who knelt on George Floyd's neck has been charged with his murder

Downtown Indy Inc. President and CEO Sherry Seiwart said the violence "did remarkable and senseless damage to businesses and residential properties that will take millions to rebuild and restore."

Seiwart's full statement:

The safety and wellbeing of person and property for those who live, work and visit Downtown is Downtown Indy, Inc.’s greatest concern shared by our business members and partners.

What took place last night and early this morning did remarkable and senseless damage to businesses and residential properties that will take millions to rebuild and restore. What is most devastating is that the businesses targeted with destruction and looting are the very businesses seeking to lift up racial inequities by employing men and women of all races and minorities – but will now be closed for weeks, months and perhaps forever.

Downtown Indy, Inc. calls on all business and community leaders of all races to demand an end to illegal and dangerous behaviors that have riddled our urban core. We also call upon these same leaders to seek to understand the pent-up anger existing in minority communities and speak out against injustice and inequality and make systemic changes where appropriate.

Peaceful protests are acceptable and welcome, but not when they lead to destruction of property and violence towards fellow humans.


PHOTOS | Several Downtown Indianapolis businesses damaged after protests

Indiana Black Expo President and CEO Tanya McKinzie released a statement Sunday afternoon. You can read the full statement below:

The recent protests in Indianapolis and other cities across the country are in direct response to the systemic racism that has been ingrained in our criminal justice system for far too long. We are now witnessing a manifestation of anger, fear, and sadness among citizens in this country that is a result of watching too many shooting deaths of Black men and women without any penal consequences. The death of George Floyd has become the tipping point.

As IMPD has reported, the organized protests in Indianapolis have been peaceful. Unfortunately, after the sun sets, a group of agitators with intentions to create chaos through riots, looting, and violence defies our legal system and only jeopardizes our efforts. Such counterproductive actions only change the narrative that should focus on unchecked police brutality and an unjust criminal justice system. We strongly condemn such violence, and criminal behavior and strongly urge peaceful protests.

Many are asking what is next? So many of us are tired of waiting for real justice that is long overdue. We are tired of having dialogue over and over that leads to no real solutions; we are tired of being pacified; we are tired of empty promises. The next step must involve rapid and bold changes that address racism and fundamental ways to reform a broken criminal justice system. Everyone responsible for justice must be held accountable. Our legal system and our country must recognize that Black lives matter.

Indianapolis City-County Councillors Vop Osili, Maggie Lewis, Keith Potts and Ali Brown joined in on the peaceful protests to honor the lives of George Floyd and other Black Americans this weekend.

Below is the full response by Councilor, D-District 5, Ali Brown:

"The unnecessary deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor once again exposed the ugly side of our nation and the systemic racism that has plagued all people of color living in America. I am heartbroken for the anger and sadness black and brown people in our nation are experiencing at this moment. In fact, I share that anger and sadness with them, because I worry every day for my friends and family members who are people of color. Not only do I fear for their safety, but I always pray they are never at the wrong place at the wrong time.
This country does not deliver its values on an equal scale, and this very fact is why my mind is always geared toward delivering justice and fairness to my District, especially for the 38-percent of Hoosier families who are people of color. But, more must be done. White people like me, who are in a privileged position, must recognize and understand that it is up to us to speak out against racism and inequity in this country and come up with solutions to fix the problem.
But most importantly, it's time for all adults to check their egos and start becoming more responsible about our actions and dialogue toward each other, because our children are watching our every move and are listening to every word. So as we begin to heal and start having frank and honest conversations as a community, let's remember to set the right tone for our children, because they will be the future of Indiana."

United Way of Central Indiana released a statement to RTV6 in response to the protests as well:

“We Hear You, and We’re Ready.”
We know the protests this weekend in Indianapolis are in specific response to the senseless death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. But broadly, we know our community at large is protesting – again – the systemic racism that continues to haunt, kill and oppress African Americans in our country. We know, and we hear you.
We know the protests this weekend in Indianapolis are in specific response to the senseless death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. But broadly, we know our community at large is protesting – again – the systemic racism that continues to haunt, kill and oppress African Americans in our country. We know, and we hear you.
We understand that the outpouring of emotion from the thousands gathering in protest was reflective of an unwillingness of many black Americans to trust law enforcement. Our communities of color are tired of being asked to participate in dialogue without seeing change. They are begging, pleading and fighting for solutions. We understand, and we hear you.
We implore others, who chose to express themselves through violent acts that endangered the lives of innocent neighbors and destroyed the property of local businesses, to channel destructive behavior into peaceful demonstrations and constructive problem-solving. We want you to be heard.
We, as a nation and as a local community, are experiencing one of the greatest struggles of a generation. We are fighting a new, deadly virus that’s killing our neighbors and crippling our economy. We are fighting an even older, deadly disease—racism – that is killing our neighbors, causing enormous injustices, and preventing people from succeeding in all aspects of life. While scientists all across the globe are desperately testing a vaccine for coronavirus, why are we not using that same sense of urgency to find an antidote and cure for racism?
United Way of Central Indiana is fully committed to diversity, equity and inclusion as we stand beside our corporate partners, non-profit organizations, community leaders, supporters, advocates and volunteers to create a community where we are proud of the quality of life for all of our residents. It’s time to come together. It’s time to show up. It’s time to stand shoulder-to-shoulder. It’s time for change. We hear you, and we’re ready.
Ann D. Murtlow, president and CEO of United Way

The Indiana Black Legislative Caucus (IBLC) released the following statement in response to the Black Lives Matter protests happening across the country:

"During the last month alone, the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus (IBLC) has written multiple letters, statements and led discussions about the effects that the global pandemic has had on the African American community and condemning racism and the blatant disregard and lack of respect for Black and Brown people.
We join our friends, colleagues, family members, and fellow Americans as the country mourns the loss of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ahmaud Arbery near Brunswick, Dreasjon Reed in our very own Indianapolis and many more. Whenever a Black person is murdered, our community mourns and angers as a collective group and today is no different. After speaking with our fellow legislators in Minnesota to offer our help, we offer this simple, non-exhaustive list:
· Support the charging and conviction of ALL officers involved in the very public execution of George Floyd

· Create civilian-led Use of Force Boards all across the country

· Create and support legislation that prevents this from happening in the future
During our mourning, we encourage all who are participating in the demonstrations across the country to be safe and protect our community. We understand the pain, let us continue to use it to build bridges and advocate for change. We also recognize there is no quick and easy answer, politically or legally to eradicate years of oppression. Malcom X said it best when he stated, 'If you stick a knife nine inches into my back and pull it out three inches, that is not progress. Even if you pull it all the way out, that is not progress. Progress is healing the wound, and America hasn't even begun to pull out the knife.'
The IBLC will continue to create a sense of urgency to eliminate racism and reform our justice, healthcare, education, and economic systems. The road to progress is not easy or short, but we are committed to bettering our community and state."

The African American Coalition of Indianapolis (AACI) submitted the following statement:

The last several days a multiracial and multi-generational protest against the realities of being Black in America and in Indianapolis has convened in our city—and it was a powerful affirmation that broad segments of our community believe Black lives matter.
IMPD has recognized that organized efforts to protest have been peaceful. Unfortunately, a small group of agitators with motives and intentions to loot, riot and be violent are jeopardizing such efforts. We strongly condemn such actions.
We also refuse to allow such actions to delegitimize our community’s concerns. We cannot allow such actions to shift the narrative from Black men and women dying to the violence inflicted by agitators on our hometown.
Black people in Indianapolis face social and economic realities that are the result of institutional racism and/or policies implemented by democratically elected officials who were either willfully unconcerned about racial inequity or practiced a policy of indifference.
Even now we have to fight for basic rights and dignities that are already afforded to us by the US Constitution. Black Lives Matter.
We will continue to support peaceful protest. Our community is resilient, but we are tired. We have taken to heart that a multiracial and multi-generational coalition of Indianapolis residents see our frustrations, are willing to hear our concerns and have supported the call for progress.