On Monday night, a demonstration prompted by recent racist events in the Bloomington area appeared to wrap up safely a little after 9 p.m. on the Monroe County courthouse square in downtown Bloomington.
But as the crowd was dispersing from the streets they had occupied for the final 90 minutes or so of the event, two demonstrators were injured in what were apparently separate incidents.
When a driver, described by witnesses as a woman older than 50, piloted her car into the group, one demonstrator was left lying face down in the crosswalk across 6th Street, on the east side of Walnut. The victim appeared to be conscious when an ambulance transported her from the scene.
[Updated at 9:48 a.m. on July 7, 2020. Bloomington Police Department issued a statement describing the current state of the investigation: “Several individuals present at the time the altercation began provided investigators with cellphone footage of the incident. At this time, the vehicle involved has not been located and investigators are working to determine the identity of the man and woman inside the passenger car and their whereabouts.” ]
[Updated at 3:36 p.m. on July 7, 2020. The city of Bloomington issued a statement at 3:21 p.m. saying The BPD is proceeding as swiftly as possible to ensure that a thorough investigation is completed and presented to the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office so a determination can be made regarding the appropriate criminal charges to be filed. … The City of Bloomington urges anyone with relevant information about the incident to share it with the BPD.]
Another victim, about whom details aren’t known to The Square Beacon, was lying in the intersection of the two alleyways that split the block just east of the square. Based on witness statements, the second victim was not involved in a car crash, but may have been caught up in a scramble of people trying to escape the car or trying to chase after it to get a glimpse of the license plate.
What brought out demonstrators at 5:30 p.m. on Monday were some events that unfolded over the weekend that showed racism is still deeply rooted in the Bloomington community.
On Sunday, Vauhxx Booker, who is an activist and a member of Monroe County’s human rights commission, posted to Facebook a video showing parts of an incident at Lake Monroe on July 4. The video shows him being held down against a tree trunk by a white man who would not let him go. According to Booker, the man told his comrades several times to “get a noose.”
The episode involving Booker as the target of a racist attack at Lake Monroe came the day after another episode that exposed a racist side to the community. A Black man, Darwin “Dee” Davis Jr., posted a video to Twitter of himself being stopped walking in his own Bloomington neighborhood for questioning by an off-duty sheriff’s detective.
Both recent local incidents came in the context of nationwide and local demonstrations over the May 25 killing by Minneapolis police of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, along with other recent police killings of Black men and women.
At Monday’s demonstration in Bloomington, the group peaked at around 400 demonstrators, but about 150 persisted until the end. When the demonstration concluded, a little after 9 p.m., the crowd was occupying Walnut Street north of the crosswalk at the corner where the Alexander Memorial stands. At that point, it appeared that a safe demonstration was in the books.
Less than 10 minutes after The Square Beacon left the scene, the sound of loud running footsteps could be heard echoing along 6th Street as several people sprinted east on foot in pursuit of the car that had driven into the group of dispersing demonstrators.
Geoff Stewart told The Square Beacon that he saw a woman clinging to the hood of the car that had driven into the group, and climbed onto the hood himself. He did not know the woman, but did not want her to be the only one on the hood, Stewart said. As the car drove north on Walnut, Stewart said he tried to obscure the driver’s side of the windshield to get the driver to slow down.
Witnesses said the driver sped up instead of slowing down. When the driver turned right (east) from Walnut onto 6th Street, Stewart was slung from the hood, as was the woman. Stewart reported he was unscathed, unlike the woman who was left lying in the crosswalk.