CROWN POINT, Ind. (AP) - Protesters in a rural Indiana city who took to the streets to condemn racism and police killings of black people encountered bystanders who were holding rifles during the demonstration.
A video that circulated on social media shows 21 people standing along a bike trail near downtown Crown Point, Indiana, watching protesters march past them Monday during a peaceful protest against police brutality and racism. Eight of the bystanders held firearms, an act Crown Point Police Chief Pete Land said is protected under state law.
“There were individuals — not related to a police department, just private citizens— that had their personally owned rifles displayed,” Land said Tuesday during a virtual city forum. “They have a right to do that.”
It is legal in Indiana to carry a rifle or a shotgun, but a permit is required to carry a sidearm in public, Land explained.
The protest on Monday drew dozens of demonstrators against the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died May 25 after pleading for air while a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck.
Former Officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with second degree murder. The three other officers at the scene were charged for the first time on Wednesday with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Cedric Caschetta, who attended the nearly three-hour protest said some people stood on the opposite side of the street where the protest began and tried to antagonize them. Caschetta, 20, said the opposition crowd shouted, “Get a job," “You don't belong here" and “You're the problem."
Caschetta, who’s black, noted that he understands people’s Second Amendment rights but that the type of firearm the bystanders carried was excessive.
“Their message was intimidation, protection,” said Caschetta, a junior at Elmhurst College who lives in Lowell, Indiana.
Meanwhile, police officers accompanied the protesters to assure them of the department’s support and protection, Land said. Police also told the people opposing the protesters that the department stands with the demonstration.
“(We) made sure their message got out. We agreed with their message,” Land said. “Crown Point is not Minneapolis.”
Crown Point Mayor David Uran emphasized that the protesters were practicing their First Amendment rights.
“It was a peaceful demonstration. They were allowed to be out there,” Uran said during a virtual City Council meeting on Monday hours after the protest. “The tone was set very early that this was gonna be very peaceful.”
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