Pain. Frustration. Resolve. That's what united those that gathered to observe the National Moment of Silence yesterday on the steps of Monument Circle.
About 100 protestors gathered around the center of the city last night. Most held signs, across which phrases like "Hands up; don't shoot" and "RIP Mike Brown" were written. All wore red sashes. They were there to remember Mike Brown, who was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, over the weekend. They were there in solidarity with the people of Ferguson, who have turned out in massive numbers to protest his death and the lack of information or explanation. They were there to say "not one more."
Yesterday's National Moment of Silence for victims of police brutality was coordinated by community activist Feminista Jones. Locally, Jaleesa Jones and Elle Roberts, along with advisors from Indy Feminists, coordinated yesterday's meeting on the circle. Similar vigils were held across the United States.
For those outside of Missouri following events in Ferguson, Twitter has been the most reliable and useful source of information as events have developed, as citizen activists and journalists alike have been tweeting rapidly throughout protests and arrests. On Wednesday, events quickly became out of control. Tear gas was deployed seemingly indiscriminately and the nation watched as journalists like Huffington Post's Ryan J. Reilly and Washington Post's Wesley Lowery were arrested inside a Ferguson McDonald's on Wednesday night. Alderman Antonio French, who chronicled events in Ferguson as thoroughly via his Twitter, was also arrested and held overnight. Tensions between protesters and police were highest that night, but on Thursday evening, at the same time as the organized vigils, things simmered.
After introductions by organizers, spoken word artist Januarie Jones performed a piece called "Kick of the Lambs" that she wrote a year and a half ago and memorized in May. The piece was inspired by the death of Trayvon Martin.
"I think that Indianapolis is in a bit of denial about race relationships," York said. "And that would be the first step towards changing and making it better for anybody. If the only people that are going to acknowledge the race relations [issue] here are the people who are getting the brunt of the negativity of it, then nothing is going to get solved. We have a whole other party that needs to come in and [acknowledge], 'You're right, we need to work on this.' "
After York's performance, organizers invited protestors to call out the names of those affected by police brutality. Then, at 7:20, a moment of silence was held. In the background, a busker played trumpet.
— Brandi Edwards (@BrandiInIndy) August 14, 2014
"I think we just all need to first accept that fact that it's not all roses and starships in Indianapolis. The racial tension here is no longer going to fly under the radar," York said.
Michael Covington, a civil rights activist who marched with Dr. King, was present yesterday as well. "I've been marching through this city for 50 years," he said, when I asked why he was on the Circle.
He's been thinking of ideas to unite citizens and law enforcement.
"The first thing that we have to concentrate on in changing this city is changing the hearts and the minds of people," Covington said. "One of the strategies that I've thought of within the last six weeks is this: we take a family of citizens and a police officer's family and unite them together and start them doing things together. Go to parties together, have dinners together, go swimming together. So they get used to understanding and enjoying each other's cultures. I think we can begin step by step, house by house, person by person until we do really become a family."
Tiffany Pettiford and her 8-year-old son Joseph Duerson came together to the Circle. Joseph was wearing a sandwich board that said, in part, "I am not violent. I am Black. I am human. I am smart, but I am afraid. I want to know the police as people that "protect and serve" us, not their own interests. I am unarmed. I want to live." Joseph has autism.
"I'm here because we're showing solidarity for not only those in Ferguson and recent events, but it seems like a larger increase in people being murdered by the police and not even getting any kind of due process. I feel like it's been going on since I was a kid and first heard about Michael Taylor, who was shot by police," Pettiford said.
when i tweeted earlier that making the sign had my hands trembling & made me feel sick... i meant it... my heart is in that message.— A Vibe Called Fresh (@JadedJaguar) August 15, 2014
"I'm here to demonstrate that we as Americans need to stand up and recognize that if we want things to change, we have to let those around us know that we're uncomfortable with the way things are," Brian Winters, who sat on the steps of Monument Circle as protesters gathered, said.
For those looking to contribute to ongoing activist efforts: Anti-State St. Louis has coordinated a bail and legal fund for those arrested during Ferguson demonstrations. There's another fund to feed the students of Ferguson in partnership with the St. Louis Foodbank.
Thank you to all who came out tonight to #NMOS14 this is not the end it is only the beginning. Stay tuned for the next steps.— NMOS14 (@NMOS14) August 15, 2014
Another vigil will be held tonight on the Circle, organized by a different group and a silent march is planned for Saturday on Indy's Eastside. This post will be updated with more info on those events as it is provided.