INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indianapolis mayor imposed an overnight curfew Sunday after two nights of violent protest over police mistreatment of African Americans that caused widespread damage downtown and included several shootings.
Two people died in shootings, though it wasn't clear their deaths were related to the protests.
The governor announced that several hundred Indiana National Guard members were on standby to assist any cities with violence, although Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said he wasn’t seeking such action as is being done in many other cities around the country.
Several hundred people took part in a peaceful protest Sunday afternoon in downtown Indianapolis, which began at the Indiana Statehouse. The group marched several blocks to outside the City-County Building, where those taking part laid on the ground while the names were read off of African Americans who have died in confrontations with police.
Large protests happened elsewhere in Indiana on Saturday, with police in Hammond using tear gas to break up protesters and officers blocking marchers from going onto Interstate 80/94. Fort Wayne police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse a crowd after Friday night’s demonstration resulted in some protesters throwing rocks at officers and breaking dozens of windows on downtown businesses.
Hogsett said the 8 p.m. Sunday curfew comes after peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd gave way later to unrest and destruction. The death of Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died in Minneapolis after an officer held his knee on his neck for several minutes, has sparked protests nationwide.
“It is clear after last night that we can no longer provide the protection of those protesters or our downtown residents and business owners when an unfortunate few are so determined to hijack this movement for their own selfish reasons,” Hogsett said.
The two people killed in downtown Indianapolis were shot amid several shootings reported late Saturday and early Sunday. Police said no officers fired their guns.
Deputy Police Chief Josh Barker said one person was arrested in one of the deaths, but that connections between the gunfire and the protests remained uncertain and under investigation.
Police officers used tear gas to break up the crowd after some people broke windows at the City-County Building and one person entered, Barker said. Soon, windows at dozens of buildings were broken and people were entering stores and stealing items. Fire badly damaged a pharmacy and fires burned in several large dumpsters pushed into streets.
Police reported 29 arrests of protesters late Saturday until about 4 a.m. Sunday after 27 were arrested the night before.
The violence in Indianapolis and many other cities was sparked by anger over Floyd’s death in Minneapolis on Monday. Four police officers were fired a day later and one has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Police had been called to the area on a report of a man trying to pass a counterfeit bill at a grocery store.
Gov. Eric Holcomb said National Guard troops would work with state police to protect state properties in Indianapolis from further damage.
“Organized protests have taken place across the state without incident but the events that have followed, particularly in Indianapolis, have devastated businesses, defaced public monuments that are centuries old, and resulted in loss of life,” Holcomb said in a statement.
Further protests are expected in Indianapolis but Hogsett said the curfew until 6 a.m. Monday was intended to protect residents.
“These actions are necessary, but they break my heart,” he said.