Protesters want the Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, to allow encampments of houseless people to persist in public parks. They point to Centers for Disease Control guidelines that call for allowing encampments to stay in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, if other individual housing options are not available.
Whether such options are available is a disputed point.
Monday’s action included as many as 80 people at its peak, which retraced the steps of around a dozen people the night before, from Seminary Park to Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s house. He lives in the Elm Heights neighborhood, south of the Indiana University campus, about a three-quarter mile walk from Seminary Park.
On Monday, the group continued from the mayor’s house to People’s Park on Kirkwood Avenue, where a teach-in was held, featuring speakers from Indiana University’s Rainbow Coalition, a relatively new coalition of multicultural groups on campus.
The night wrapped up around 11:30 p.m. as two houseless men pitched a tent at People’s Park, and protesters lined the sidewalk to form a wall against possible police action.
The addition to the mural came in the context of of nationwide and local demonstrations, prompted by Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, along with other recent police killings of Black men and women. Floyd was killed on May 25 by Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, when the police officer pinned Floyd down with a knee-on-neck hold.
On Wednesday, Bloomington’s assistant director for the arts, Sean Starowitz, described the layering of the phrase over the top of the existing mural as a “well-intentioned addition the mural, in terms of the color choice and how it was laid out.”
He told BAC members that “repairs” would not be done to the mural, and it will not be “buffed”—which is the technical term for painting over a mural to make the wall blank again. That’s due in part to the fact that the contract with Allen—who painted the “Bloomington” mural—expires at the end of August.
After that, the future of the wall is uncertain, because the mural is part of a public-private partnership that includes the owners of the Bicycle Garage, whose wall is the canvas for the mural.
Sometime mid-afternoon on Friday a week ago, an anonymous artist, not commissioned by the property owners, drew new letters across the mural in Bloomington’s People’s Park, spelling out the words: “BLACK LIVES MATTER.”