Police killing of George Floyd sparks protests nationwide

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Anger over years of police violence against African Americans have fueled protests nationwide.

In Indianapolis, people downtown woke up to several windows smashed on businesses, with some looted. Graffiti marked buildings, monument circle, and even the Soldiers and Sailors monument. Near downtown, a CVS store was smoldering after an overnight fire sparked by the protest. Some buildings had “I can’t breathe,” spraypainted on their walls.

People took to the streets Saturday morning, cleaning up the damage. One volunteer said he woke up this morning to a devastated city.

“I came down here to simply help out simply I woke up this morning and seen the devastation that my city just went through this is not what people in Indiana are about,” Johnny Bush said. “These people have been through devastation because of what has been happening the last few months in our country.”

Overnight, protestors took to the streets in downtown Indy, chanting and shouting. Some walked down the street, blocking traffic. Police blocked off the capitol, wearing riot gear. Protestors linking arms or raising hands.

During the protest, something was shot into the air. People screamed and shortly afterward, smoke rose in the street.

As the night progressed, things escalated to a chaotic scene. Some men threw garbage cans into the street. Protestors yelled at police, while others kneeled in the street yelling “hands up, don’t shoot.”

Crowds ran in the street, with the sound of shattering glass in the background. It appeared as if police were firing rubber bullets, the thud sounding around reporters and protestors alike.

Tear gas canisters littered the street, their acrid fumes rising in attempt to clear the streets. Protestors and reporters alike ran from the smoke, pouring water and milk on their faces to try to neutralize the gas.

Tables set in front of businesses in an attempt to encourage social distance dining as Marion County moves to the next phase of opening up were tossed aside, shattering windows along the street.

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said there were 25 arrests related to the protests. Dozens of officers were injured.

The sight was familiar across the nation, as protests have been fueled by outrage over Floyd’s death and years of police violence against African Americans. Thousands demonstrated peacefully, demanding justice for George Floyd, a black man who died after a white officer pressed a knee into his neck.

Other protests, however, escalated nationwide. Protesters burned businesses in Minneapolis. They smashed police cars and windows in Atlanta, broke into police headquarters in Portland, Oregon, and chanted curses at President Donald Trump outside the White House. Some demonstrators smashed police cars and spray-painted the iconic logo sign at CNN headquarters in downtown Atlanta. 

Faith leaders say they are concerned by the violence, calling for peace.

“I’m concerned we have all this damage to the businesses downtown. All of us are supportive, unarmed black men. Where it crosses the line, hurts the message of the cause,” Reverend Charles Harrison said.

Rev. Harrison says there has been a historical problem in the country dealing with the issue of race. He says there is pent up frustration. While he knows the frustration, as he was born during segregation, protestors can’t lose the moral high ground.

“Where it crosses the line is where it goes into violence, looting and criminal activity. I think it hurts the cause and the message of the cause,” Rev. Harrison said. “I would say, not just to the people here in Indianapolis but those across the country, continue to protest but do it peacefully and continue to speak out against what your cause is. Is it a just cause, is it a good cause but please don’t let it get to the looting and destruction of businesses.”

The latest protests were sparked after the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.

Police were trying to put Floyd in a squad car Monday when he stiffened and fell to the ground, saying he was claustrophobic, a criminal complaint said. Officer Derek Chauvin and Officer Tou Thoa arrived and tried several times to get the struggling Floyd into the car.

Chauvin eventually pulled Floyd out of the car, and the handcuffed Floyd went to the ground face down. Officer J.K. Kueng held Floyd’s back and Officer Thomas Lane held his legs while Chauvin put his knee on Floyd’s head and neck area, the complaint said.

When Lane asked if Floyd should be rolled onto his side, Chauvin said, “No, staying put is where we got him.” Lane said he was “worried about excited delirium or whatever.”

An autopsy said the combined effects of being restrained, potential intoxicants in Floyd’s system and his underlying health issues, including heart disease, likely contributed to his death. It revealed nothing to support strangulation as the cause of death.

There were no other details about intoxicants, and toxicology results can take weeks. In the 911 call that drew police, the caller describes the man suspected of paying with counterfeit money as “awfully drunk and he’s not in control of himself.”

After Floyd apparently stopped breathing, Lane again said he wanted to roll Floyd onto his side. Kueng checked for a pulse and said he could not find one, according to the complaint.

Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He also was accused of ignoring another officer who expressed concerns about Floyd as he lay handcuffed on the ground

Chauvin, who was fired along with three other officers who were at the scene, faces more than 12 years in prison if convicted of murder.

On Saturday, Downtown Indianapolis released a statement, responding to the violence and destruction that happened in the wake of an initially peaceful protest.

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.Sherry Seiwert, president and CEO, Downtown Indy, Inc.

Sherry Seiwert, president and CEO, Downtown Indy, Inc.

Police nationwide remain on high alert Saturday, fearing additional unrest. In Indiana, another protest is planned for Saturday afternoon.

In Greenwood, Simon Property Group decided to close the Greenwood Park Mall in response to a planned protest event in the city.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett tweeted, calling for people to avoid the downtown area as they work to address the vandalism and damage.

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