INDIANAPOLIS — Emerging from the safety of his home or his 25th floor conference room at the City County Building for the first time during more than three days of raucous protests that led to violence, murder and the trashing of downtown Indianapolis, Mayor Joe Hogsett defended the decisions he made during a weekend when peaceful protests turned into riots that rocked the core of Indiana’s capitol city.
The first windows were broken at about 8:30 p.m. Friday as sources indicate two of the mayor’s top officials were advising IMPD Chief Randy Taylor and his staff at a command center as to their expectations of a moderate police response as a peaceful march against racial injustice quickly spiraled into chaotic mayhem that led to widespread looting, fires and vandalism before dawn Saturday.
If, as one IMPD source indicated, Friday night was a “probing raid” for protestors to observe police response tactics, Saturday night the lid came off of downtown Indianapolis after another massive peaceful rally.
“Frankly, we were having discussions all day Saturday with protest organizers,” said Hogsett, “and while no agreements were made, while no guarantees were extended, I had reason to believe that by my request that the protests run from 4 p.m. to 7 or 7:30 would be honored. That is what we were hopeful for. It didn’t happen the way we wanted it to happen.”
While hundreds of peaceful protestors left downtown, others remained and continued marching and chanting and were joined by newcomers after the official rally was concluded.
“And unfortunately, there are those who remained or came down after the sun went down who decided to engage in vandalism, looting and other forms of criminal activity,” said Hogsett.
As dusk settled in, and the crowd’s enthusiasm and volume grew, downtown streets became choked with traffic as car horns and radios blared and motorists added their voices to the chorus of opposition to police brutality that led to the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer last week.
What followed were assaults on the City County Building, several downtown bank branches, a report of a fire at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the torching of a CVS Pharmacy that burned the night before, the re-looting of the TJ Maxx store and several clothing merchants, dumpster fires in the middle of Pennsylvania Street, broken windows at the building housing the Marion County Prosecutors Office, a second night of burglary at Circle Centre Mall, smashed glass on the Indiana Convention Center and the Indiana Repertory Theatre and damages to more than one hundred businesses and buildings downtown in losses that are yet to be calculated, effectively destroying and closing the restaurant and retail sector of the city’s core that was already crippled by more than two months of shutdown ordered by the mayor and the Marion County Public Health Department in an attempt to protect residents from the coronavirus pandemic.
Meanwhile, friends, family and the community mourns the death of former IU football player Chris Beaty was shot to death Saturday evening near Talbot and Vermont Streets as the rioting raged throughout downtown.
IMPD sources report that the investigation of a second murder hours later at Market and Pennsylvania Streets was cut short as the presence of rioters endangered officers and evidence technicians at the scene.
Saturday night’s second riot compounded the destruction to businesses and buildings left untouched by the Friday night violence.
Only when Governor Eric Holcomb directed Indiana National Guard troops to assist the Indiana State Police in securing state property in downtown Indianapolis, and Hogsett instituted an 8 p.m. curfew countywide and travel restrictions Sunday night, was the city quiet for the first time since Friday evening.
“Enough is enough,” said ISP Superintendent Doug Carter in explaining the deployment of state assets to secure Indianapolis.
During his first in-person briefing with reporters since late March, Hogsett was asked, after witnessing the Friday night riots, why he didn’t call for a curfew and the blockage of traffic in the Mile Square before Saturday’s rallies.
“To the extent that a curfew was considered, it certainly was for Saturday, but a judgment was made that perhaps with cooperation and collaboration we could avoid the violence that had unfortunately been in the city on Friday night.”
Hogsett then shifted responsibility for the tactical crowd management decisions that were made before Saturday night’s riot to IMPD.
“I don’t make the decision about shutting down traffic,” the two-term mayor of Indianapolis said.
It should be noted that IMPD, in consultation with mayors, has always advised or acceded to executive directives, to close downtown streets to traffic for parades, festivals, sporting events and, in the wake of widespread violence several years ago, during Indiana Black Expo’s Summer Celebration.
(In a related note, The Original Farmers’ Market, which traditionally shuts down Market Street in front of the CCB on Wednesdays in the summer, and was recently moved to a closed section of Monument Circle, will not resume until June 10.)
Hogsett, who prefaced his Sunday curfew announcement with claiming a lesson he learned as the former U.S. Attorney for Southern Indiana was to trust law enforcement, focused his Monday briefing with the press on directing Chief Taylor to undertake internal affairs investigations into complaints that officers might have overstepped their bounds or used inappropriate force in restoring order to the streets.
Taylor acknowledged that his staff had reviewed video of questionable incidents and apologized for any protestors who inadvertently suffered the effects of tear gas intended to disperse unruly crowds.
Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears announced he would not pursue charges against 41 people arrested for non-violent crimes during the protests and riots afterwards but is still in the process of considering burglary counts against 14 individuals charged with looting.
Mears concluded his press release by advising, “Allegations of improper conduct or procedural violations by members of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department should be directed to the Citizens’ Police Complaint Office. The Citizens’ Police Complaint Office is an independent city office which provides an avenue for complaints against sworn officers to be investigated. To file a complaint with that office, please complete the online form or contact the office directly at (317) 327-3440 or email@example.com.”
Meanwhile, a review of arrest records continues to determine the extent of suspected outside influence into the Indianapolis unrest by groups and individuals from other states.
Monday afternoon, Solomon Franklin, 21, recounted 18 hours he spent inside the Marion County Jail following his arrest ten minutes after Mayor Hogsett’s 8 p.m. curfew went into effect Sunday.
“I was walking home with my girlfriend and her friend, I work at Kroger, I’m an essential worker, I had my skateboard, they locked us up for walking home.
“We were out of downtown, and they pulled up on us all and arrested us.
“They all just pull up on us out of nowhere, like about five cars. They take us in. The jails are horrible.”
Franklin said his curfew violation charge was dropped.
As merchants and restaurants took stock of the damage two days of rioting left on their businesses, Bob Scultz, senior V.P. of marketing for Downtown Indy Inc., told FOX59 “Right now, our number is at 112 street level businesses surrounding Monument Circle, going down South Penn, South Meridian toward Mass Ave., all the way back down toward Georgia Street and the church St. John’s, the Convention Center, Banker’s Life Fieldhouse area… all points in our central business district that have seen great devastation. And the question remains… is it over?”
Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard rolls back plan to sue City of Minneapolis
The City of Carmel, the wealthiest community per capita in Indiana, quoted Mayor Jim Brainard in warning, “Carmel has retained outside legal counsel and is planning to take action against the City of Minneapolis for negligence for the expenses incurred protecting our community as a result of the actions by police in Minneapolis.” He added that but for the negligence of the police department in that city, many communities, including Carmel, would not have incurred the costs of responding to the resulting riots and looting.
“I encourage other cities to join us in this lawsuit for recovery of our costs. Those in power need to understand the far-reaching consequences of their actions,” said Mayor Brainard.
Carmel Police vehicles were spotted on the streets of Indianapolis before dawn Saturday in a cooperative agreement to support IMPD as it struggled to retain a sense of calm to the city after the first night of rioting.
Then, some six hours after the City of Carmel’s original news release, a second statement was issued, rolling back the mayor’s threat to sue Minneapolis for additional police costs.