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.
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.