Demonstrators encouraged to contact mayor
By Ashley Sloboda | The Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne)
June 15, 2020
Caption: Brittiane Jones speaks during Faith in Indiana’s march for racial justice Sunday, seeking revisions to the police department’s use-of-force policy.
With assistance from police, hundreds of protesters marched Sunday across Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge to the Allen County Courthouse, where participants called on city leaders to reform law enforcement.
Delante Jackson of East Chestnut Church of Christ encouraged the multigenerational, racially diverse crowd to bring their demands to the City Council meeting Tuesday.
“It is about time for us to show up,” Jackson said. Otherwise, he said, “they’re going to continue to do the same thing they’ve been doing time after time again.”
There’s power in numbers, the Rev. Karen Staton of Destiny Life Center Church said.
“One or two can’t do much,” she said, “but together, we can all do it together.”
The march followed two weeks of protests in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd while in custody of Minneapolis police. The initial demonstrations in Fort Wayne involved police deploying tear gas after protesters refused to clear streets.
“During abuse from ICE and Border Patrol officers, we recognize that we too suffer from a system that targets and abuses minorities,” said Lauro Zuniga of Hispanic Leadership Coalition of Northeast Indiana. “We also recognize that our movement is made stronger by standing in solidarity with our black brothers and sisters.”
The event was hosted by Fort Wayne Changemakers, a new youth-led collective at the center of the protests, and the Allen County chapter of Faith in Indiana, a federation of Faith in Action.
“Loving our country, our city, means cherishing life and liberty for every single person in it,” Staton said in a statement. “We cannot allow those entrusted to serve and protect our communities to target, detain and kill black people. Real change starts at home with Mayor (Tom) Henry’s public commitment to reform law enforcement, starting with a use of force policy.”
Other demands – which speakers took turns reading – include a review of Fort Wayne police actions on the weekend of May 29-31 and a pledge to remove officers with ties to racial hate groups and white terrorist organizations.
Staton encouraged demonstrators to flood Henry’s email by completing a form at bit.ly/MayorHenry.
“You’ve got a phone, you’ve got a voice,” she said.
Participants of the 4 p.m. march stressed their intent to remain peaceful and were cognizant about keeping the left lane of Clinton Street open to traffic.
Demonstrators arrived at the courthouse without apparent incident, but later other protesters caused trouble when they dragged barricades and fencing into the road and blocked parts of Clinton Street near the police operations center. Police ordered them to leave the area or be arrested for unlawful assembly. Six people were arrested after refusing to leave, according to Sofia Rosales-Scatena, police spokeswoman. Police secured the downtown area by 7:50 p.m. without further incident.