The Memorial Day death of George Floyd, caused when a Minneapolis Police Dept. officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest, had ripple effects across the nation, including Carmel.
The first week of June in Carmel included several peaceful protests against police brutality, a vigil, a threatened lawsuit against the City of Minneapolis and a curfew to prevent violence. As of press time, Carmel had avoided the rioting and looting that took place over several nights in Indianapolis.
The following is a recap of the local events of the week.
‘Everyone needs to come out here’
Demonstrators marched through downtown Carmel daily beginning June 1 to protest the death of Floyd and other police incidents that have led to the deaths of black people nationwide.
What started as a group of approximately 20 people at 5 p.m. June 1 on the corner of Main Street and Range Line Road grew to a few hundred at its peak as the group marched through the Arts & Design District and along the Monon Greenway, shouting “black lives matter,” “say his name: George Floyd,” “no justice, no peace” and other chants.
Carmel High School student Klay Gabriel said she felt led to protest not only because of Floyd’s death but also because of the racism she’s experienced in her hometown.
“As a biracial woman, the hate I get here breaks my heart, and it breaks my heart for all the other black people that live here and go to my high school,” Gabriel said. “If there’s anywhere we need to protest in Indiana, it’s in Carmel. Everyone needs to come out here.”
Rebecca Forbes, a University of Indianapolis student who grew up in Carmel, said she witnessed racist attitudes at school and in the community when she had a black boyfriend. She marched in part to bring attention to the disparity between how people of different races are treated.
“People of color cannot be the only people to be speaking out against this,” said Forbes, who is white.
The three-hour march remained peaceful, with Carmel police officers stopping traffic to allow protesters to safely cross streets. Many people watched the demonstration while shopping or dining at businesses along Main Street.
Carmel police said they learned of the protest through social media and were not alerted by organizers before it began June 1, although they were in contact with organizers for subsequent protests.
After the event, CPD issued a statement thanking the protestors for remaining peaceful and describing interactions between protesters and the police as “polite and respectful.”
Police join protestors
For the second time in less than 24 hours, demonstrators peacefully marched through central Carmel to protest the death of Floyd and other incidents of police brutality.
But this time, police marched with them.
Several members of the Carmel Police Dept. walked alongside dozens of protestors June 2, sharing information and stories with each other and discussing changes they’d like to see. Other officers followed nearby on motorcycles to keep the group safe from traffic as they made their way from Carter’s Green to Main Street and back again.
Police said event organizer Reign Acosta, who declined to be interviewed by Current, reached out to let officers know about the event and invite them to participate.
Fishers resident Will Toyer helped coordinate the protest and said he planned to organize one in his hometown, as well. He thanked protestors for remaining peaceful as they brought their message to Carmel.
“We know that the majority is out here in Carmel, a lot of money and a lot of power, so we wanted to spread that to the community and get people involved that way,” Toyer said after the event.
His wife, Kristan Bowman, said she was encouraged by Carmel officials taking the time to hear what the demonstrators had to say.
“Getting people to listen is a first step,” Bowman said. “It won’t continue to move forward if we’re fighting the whole time.”
CPD Chief Jim Barlow marched near the front throughout the protest. He said both groups learned a lot about each other.
“We want to show that we’re open. We strive for perfection, but we realize we’re human and we’re going to make mistakes,” Barlow said. “You just don’t want to see mistakes to the level that happened in Minneapolis.”
Hamilton County Sheriff Dennis Quakenbush also walked with the protestors. Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard participated in the first portion of the walk.
Barlow said police were willing to march with other groups or protestors if asked to join.
Curfew to curb violence
Brainard issued a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew beginning June 2 and lasting indefinitely applicable to all public streets and public places in Carmel, although it only lasted one day.
Brainard said his decision to implement the curfew was a result of rioting and a curfew in Indianapolis, threats made against Carmel on social media and insight from CPD.
Brainard put the curfew in effect after riots and looting occurred over several nights in Indianapolis beginning May 29. The incidents occurred after primarily peaceful demonstrations against the death of Floyd.
“(Indianapolis) chose to take a very soft approach to it in my opinion, and it got much worse Saturday night,” Brainard said during a June 3 meeting of the Reconnecting Carmel Task Force. “It’s the balance between protecting everyone’s right to demonstrate but not allowing violence and looting and burning. Three people were killed in Indianapolis. We’re not going to permit that in Carmel.”
Brainard said he quadrupled the number of police on duty in Carmel in response to the riots in Indianapolis and elsewhere. The only incident believed to be related to the riots reported in Carmel as of press time was the smashing of windows at Kohl’s at 9895 N. Michigan Rd.
However, with broken windows reported near Keystone at the Crossing and in the Castleton areas in north Indianapolis, Brainard wants to ensure the vandalism doesn’t move into Carmel.
“Neither the police chief nor I wanted to do a curfew, but with Indianapolis having one and Carmel not, and Carmel being the target because of our wealth and position within the state, there was a lot of thought that people who wanted to do damage would come here since they couldn’t legally be on the streets of Indianapolis,” Brainard said. “The police needed that tool to be able to keep it safe last night in their judgment.”
Not suing after all
The City of Carmel in a statement released June 1 announced it had retained outside counsel to sue the City of Minneapolis for expenses incurred for additional security in the wake of the death of Floyd.
Brainard stated that he hoped other municipalities would join Carmel in pursuit of reimbursement, but within several hours the mayor decided not to move forward with the lawsuit.
“I still feel that the Minneapolis Police Dept. was recklessly negligent, given the officer’s disciplinary history, in allowing him to remain in uniform patrolling the streets of Minneapolis,” Brainard stated. “My intent was to send a message that their negligence cost many lives and millions in property damage across the country. America has a long history of correcting behavior though the legal system and I felt this would be another opportunity to do so. This is not about inflicting more pain to the good people of Minneapolis. It is about sending a message to its leaders and to leaders across the U.S. that we will no longer tolerate the violence and damage that results from their inability or unwillingness to treat all people with respect.”