Dozens of downtown stores boarded up; workers begin cleaning graffiti from weekend protests

Chris Agal, a worker with Indianapolis-based masonry contractor Broady-Campbell, scrubs graffiti Monday from the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. (IBJ photo/John Russell)

The hiss and splash of power washers filled the air Monday on Monument Circle as workers began scrubbing graffiti off the Soldiers and Sailors Monument and other buildings, following a weekend of demonstrations over the death of an unarmed black man who was killed by a Minneapolis policeman.

The century-old neoclassical monument was filled with dozens of spray-painted messages, many in large bright lettering that named victims over the years of police brutality. Some of the graffiti also contained profanity and angry messages toward police and other officials. Around the Circle and throughout downtown, many street-level business remained closed and boarded up.

Workers from Broady-Campbell, an Indianapolis-based mason contractor, used cleaning chemicals, scrub brushes and power washers to clean the graffiti off the Soldiers and Sailors Monument.

“It’s pretty bad, but with a power washer, I think it will all come off,” worker Chris Agal said.

On what would likely be a day of people returning to work, downtown streets were eerily quiet, aside from a few dozen people milling around, taking pictures of the boarded-up stores. Dozens of storefronts, including several entire blocks, were covered in huge sheets of plywood, some of which were already covered in graffiti. Many of the businesses downtown were not answering phone calls or opening their doors to take questions.

Mayor Joe Hogsett on Monday announced a one-night extension of Sunday’s curfew order for Marion County, effective from 8 p.m. Monday until 4 a.m. Tuesday. Violation of the order is a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and fines worth up to $10,000.

Exceptions to the order include people traveling directly to or from work, seeking medical care or fleeing from dangerous circumstances; law enforcement; member of the news media; and public officials conducting necessary work.

south bend chocolate
South Bend Chocolate Co. on Monument Circle was boarded up on Monday, like most street-level businesses in the area. (IBJ photo/John Russell)

There were no protesters in sight Monday morning, no violence, no police dressed in riot gear—unlike the weekend, when thousands of people participated in largely peaceful protests downtown that later devolved, with some people breaking windows and looting stores. Police fired pepper spray at some of the demonstrators.

Sunday night, however, the protests stayed largely peaceful and the vast majority of people left downtown when the curfew took effect.

Chris Westmoreland of Indianapolis walked around Monument Circle on Monday morning and took in the sights as workers began scrubbing away the graffiti. He said the protests and property damage could have been avoided if officials had immediately addressed police brutality and incidents of racial injustices as they arose. He called the weekend protests in Indianapolis and other cities “a movement” of people upset about years of racial discrimination.

“Rather than letting everything come to a boil, if people would have addressed the problems earlier, it wouldn’t have come to this,” he said.

But another observer on Monument Circle, Dr. Raymundo Rosales, an off-duty emergency physician, said the death of George Floyd was due to the “horrible actions” of a police officer, not necessarily the actions of citizens and business owners around the country, many of whom are seeing their workplaces vandalized. Floyd died on May 25 after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes following an arrest. Police say Floyd was suspected of using a counterfeit $20 bill at a market.

“People are seeing their businesses and livelihoods being destroyed as a result of these protests,” Rosales said.

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5 thoughts on “Dozens of downtown stores boarded up; workers begin cleaning graffiti from weekend protests

  1. Quote: “….following a weekend of demonstrations…” Heads-up, John Russell: These were riots. How about some intellectual honesty and accurate reporting?

    They were demonstrations only in that they demonstrated the inability of the perpetrators to live and function in civil society.

    1. I agree. The demonstrations ended when the leadership of those demonstrations left the area in a peaceful manner. The RIOTS started when the radicals remained and decided that a peaceful demonstration was not sufficient.

    2. There were a mix of peaceful protests and chaotic riots. The story makes that point.

  2. These were riots, no question about that. That’s a pretty simple definition of what transpired. Did they start that way. No. Was that the intent of the organizers. I choose to believe it was not. Does an assemblage of angry people exist as a powder keg for the emergence of the lack of civility. Yes. To those who are rightly indignant at the damage that has taken place, I truly hope that we, as a City and as a society, come to understand that the requirement of JUSTICE comes before an expectation of CIVILITY. The injustices that have unfolded over centuries, decades and, most recently in the last several weeks and months have caused a slow burning fuse on those treated unfairly in what should be a just society. I sincerely hope our conversations return quickly to our collective need to correct injustices in a society that seems to be riddled with division and , sadly, at the highest levels in our National government. Where is our unifier? Our leader that helps calm the waters? Someone who brings an ounce of empathy and understanding to help the cause of justice do its part to maintain a civil society? History has shown, from the “shot heard round the world” that signaled the start of the Revolutionary War to even today, that injustice leads to incivility. Justice must come first and it must come soon. I condemn the rioting and looting and the violence. It is counterproductive; however, it is an outcrop of our history as mankind when justice does not prevail or exist for those oppressed.

  3. I agree the marches and protesting during the day were peaceful and powerful. However, so much of the destruction that occurred at night could have been avoided. After the damage and trouble on Friday night the only reaction from our mayor was to state that this activity was unacceptable. Was he seriously thinking that those causing damage would cease and desist based upon a few comments and his honor’s feelings??? “Hey Bob, I saw where the mayor’s not going to be happy if we lob bricks through store windows tonight. Let’s stop and go home.”

    I live downtown and stayed up until after 1:00 Saturday night/Sunday morning watching the destruction of private and public property. In addition, cars were driving through downtown in the midst of all of the chaos for what I can only assume was sightseeing? While listening to the police helicopter flying overhead the news commentators repeatedly stated the police are in a “cat and mouse” game with the protestors. Really???? The police have a birds eye view and can’t get a handle on where the activity is headed and what is going on?? Clearly the mayor’s office and the police chief were in a strictly ineffective and reactive mode rather than a proactive mindset from the start.

    I love living downtown Indianapolis and it was both sickening and scary to watch all of this unfold. It wasn’t until Sunday that someone thought maybe a curfew and blocking the ramps into downtown from the interstates might provide a bit more emphasis to the mayor’s displeasure of the destruction going on. Gee thanks Joe…. What a great job.

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