No word from prosecutor: July 4 Lake Monroe incident involving Bloomington activist gets tried in court of public opinion

As of early Tuesday morning, there was still no word from the Monroe County prosecutor’s office on possible charges arising from an incident that took place at Lake Monroe on July 4.

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In a Facebook post the following day, local activist and Monroe County human rights commissioner, Vauhxx Booker, described himself as “almost the victim of an attempted lynching.”

Since then, demonstrations with a few hundred people have been held on the courthouse square in downtown Bloomington and Booker has given a few press conferences. At one of the press events he and his legal counsel called for a federal grand jury to be convened.

On Monday, David Hennessy, an attorney who represents Sean Purdy and Caroline McCord, two of the people who were involved in the incident, and whom Booker is accusing, gave a press conference.

Hennessy argued a case for his clients, saying that Booker was “the instigator and the agitator” in the incident. Continue reading “No word from prosecutor: July 4 Lake Monroe incident involving Bloomington activist gets tried in court of public opinion”

Fallout from Facebook statement: Bloomington city staff apologize, farmers market committee disbanded

A statement posted a week and a half ago on Bloomington’s farmers market Facebook page—the same day as the “Enough is Enough” anti-police-brutality demonstration—has resulted in the disbanding of the group that posted the statement.

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Zoom participant list for FMAC meeting on June 15, 2020. Names with a blue hand have “raised their hand” to speak during public comment. Attendance at the meeting peaked at around 160 people.

At its Monday night meeting, the farmers market advisory council (FMAC) voted to disband the broadening inclusion group (BIG), after seven of BIG’s nine members had already resigned.

Their resignations came after a post on Facebook made by the group, which included the statement, “Our hearts break for every lost, angry, and aimless young black man and woman who commit violent crimes and claim the lives of other black men, black women, and black children—their lives matter.” The statement was denounced as racist by several hundred commenters.

Monday nights FMAC vote to disband the BIG was 6–1, with two absences, which were caused in part by audio difficulties that made parts of the meeting, conducted on the Zoom videoconferencing platform, difficult to follow.

What are the next steps after the vote to disband the BIG?

Responding to an emailed question from The Square Beacon, Paula McDevitt, Bloomington’s director of parks and recreation, said staff will be reviewing the FMAC chat and transcript of the recorded comments. “We will share them with the board of park commissioners,” McDevitt said.

Continue reading “Fallout from Facebook statement: Bloomington city staff apologize, farmers market committee disbanded”

Bloomington drops company’s public towing contract after son’s racist rant, but license for private tows could be granted

On Thursday, the city of Bloomington used a seven-day out clause in its contract with Ken’s Westside Service and Towing to terminate its contract with the company for public tows. Those are tows that are requested by city police, not private property owners.

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Bloomington mayor John Hamilton in a screen grab of June 12, 2020 press conference conducted on Zoom. (Image links to closed-captioned YouTube video of the press conference.)

The company could still eventually be licensed by the city to do private tows, under the city’s new program regulating companies who do such work.

Termination of the contract for public tows was the city’s response to a self-recorded video of a racist statement posted online by the owner’s son, commenting on the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd in late May. In the video, the son says: “That officer did us a favor… Ya’ll can hate me, do whatever…” In the video he’s wearing the company’s uniform shirt—he was an employee.

The officer to which the remark referred was Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, who on May 25 pinned Floyd down with a knee-on-neck hold for about nine-minutes, killing him, a scene that was caught on video. It was the event that prompted nationwide protests against police brutality, including the local Enough is Enough march last week and the BLM-sponsored Black Against the Wall Facebook discussion.

The owners of the company, Ken and Kathy Parrish, posted a statement on Facebook saying they had fired their son: “With a heavy heart I have dismissed my son of his duties here with us at Ken’s Westside.” Continue reading “Bloomington drops company’s public towing contract after son’s racist rant, but license for private tows could be granted”

Bloomington city council condemns racist hate: “We don’t want to overlook what’s happening today, while we’re trying to fix yesterday.”

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On a 9–0 vote Wednesday night, Bloomington’s city council approved a resolution condemning “hate based on racial, social, and cultural bias” and committing to providing “appropriate resources to ensure civil and human rights are protected and afforded to all individuals.”

The resolution was sponsored by Jim Sims, the council’s only Black member, and co-sponsored by the other eight members.

The resolution grew out of conversations with constituents over a few years, Sims said, and one question that arose in connection with the topic was: Why doesn’t Bloomington already have a resolution like this? Continue reading “Bloomington city council condemns racist hate: “We don’t want to overlook what’s happening today, while we’re trying to fix yesterday.””

Protest at Bloomington park board meeting yields 2–1 vote on farmers market rules of behavior

Bloomington’s board of park commissioners voted 2–1 on Tuesday night to adopt new rules of behavior at the city’s farmers market. Dissenting was the newest board member, Israel Herrera.

The rules specify how and where protests are allowed at the farmers market.

Herrera told The Square Beacon after the meeting that his vote was based on the concerns that meeting protestors had conveyed—from the public podium and their seats in the audience—about the possibility of increased police violence in the coming season, due to the new rules. People who speak up should not be forced to shut up, he said.

The 2–1 tally was enough to pass the measure on the four-member board. One seat is currently vacant. The city’s corporation counsel, Philippa Guthrie, told The Square Beacon the board needs a majority of those present to approve a motion. Continue reading “Protest at Bloomington park board meeting yields 2–1 vote on farmers market rules of behavior”

Second Monday in October is now Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Bloomington

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Agnes Woodward, a Cree from the Kawacatoose First Nation in Saskatchewan, who now lives in Bloomington, returns to her seat after speaking to the city council during public commentary in support of declaring Indigenous People’s Day. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

The second Monday in October is now recognized as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Bloomington, Indiana. This year that’s Oct. 14.

The city council voted unanimously in favor of the resolution putting the day permanently on the calendar, after Mayor John Hamilton proclaimed last year’s Oct. 8 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

It doesn’t mean that city employees get another holiday. Rather, the resolution says it’s “an opportunity to celebrate the cultures and values that Indigenous Peoples of our region add to the communities in Bloomington, throughout Indiana, and globally.” Continue reading “Second Monday in October is now Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Bloomington”