Indiana governor defends right to protest, likens violent actions to organized crime

Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS (WANE) – Governor Eric Holcomb held a press conference early Monday afternoon to address the protests that that took place this past weekend across Indiana, including Fort Wayne. Governor Holcomb was joined by National Guard Adjutant General Dale Lyles and Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter.

“All Hoosiers citizens should know peacefully protesting for this cause is a noble one, rightly protected by our first amendment. In fact, I hope the peacemakers continue to express themselves and not allow the message to be overwhelmed by the troublemakers seeking to administer pain on the innocent,” Governor Holcomb stated. “For make no mistake about it, no citizen has a right to destroy, vandalize, or threaten another Hoosier’s safety or property. Coordinated efforts to unlawfully breaking in and entering, shooting at law enforcement officials and setting fires has taken on a tone of organized crime and will be responded to accordingly. Therefore, Indiana will continue assisting local communities with the needed state resources to enforce the rule of law and protect lives and property.”

The protests were held in response to the death of George Floyd, a black man who pleaded for air as a Minneapolis officer pressed a knee into his neck. That officer was arrested Friday. Governor Holcomb addressed the death of Floyd and stated that the violence and fatal injustice has turned into anything but “a proper time of mourning.”

The Indiana Governor wants to remind Hoosiers that the last gasp that Floyd took saying, “I can’t breathe” should remind them “that every breath that we take, every breath that we have left should be devoted to making sure that what happened to Mr. Floyd never happens again.” Included in his address, those who are responsible for his death will be “held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

State Police and National Guard personnel have been placed in locations to defend all law abiding citizen rights under the direction of the Governor.

Governor Holcomb hopes that Indiana and the nation can “make systemic progress on topics that have for too long alluded our true and aspired to national identity.” He believes that Indiana can be a leader on this front, in actions and agenda revolving around inequity and disparity at all levels of government.

The governor encourages the energy generated in the aftermath of the Floyd injustice. Actions are needed to continue the conversation: better healthcare access, affordable housing, educational opportunity, job training and placement, urban and economic development, access to capital and criminal justice reform. In addition policing standards and race relations for those who are “disproportionately affected”.

“Violence in the streets makes progress on these fronts harder,” the governor reminded listeners. “And sets us back from forming that more perfect union.”

Indiana State Police Superintendent Douglas Carter addressed Hoosiers, letting them know that the Indiana State Police has been deployed to support citizens and local businesses all across the state.

“There is not a group I would not walk with that wanted to be peaceful. In the event that that occurs, we will gladly block those [public] streets and do all we can to ensure the safety of those peaceful first amendment protests,” Carter said. “It’s the right of every American citizen and we will never get in the way of that, but it changes when they become illegal, out of balance, destructing property, tearing apart the very essence of who we are as an American people. That changes everything.”

When discussing the uncivilized view that he had of Monument Circle, Carter said, “The view was obstructed by angry, violent and destructive people. I could see fires, taste the smell of tear gas and the view of broken windows, trash and debris was simply overwhelming to me.”

Superintendent Carter addressed the need for tear gas. “Everybody was told that it was going to happen if they didn’t disperse,” Carter said. “There comes a certain point in time where we have to say enough is enough, and we got there over the weekend.”

Carter thanked the governor for his support and empathy during this difficult time, and asked Hoosiers to not blame the front line law enforcement officers that are sacrificing. Reminding them that these officers would die for the people damaging their communities. He instead told listeners that, “The people you must hold accountable are the people like me. As a leader in this profession, I, and so many others like me around our great nation, must hold our officers accountable and you should expect nothing less of me.”

“We, and what I represent, have much left to do,” Carter said. “I’ll start with I’m sorry. I was asked by many protesters on Saturday, quote ‘What do you expect us to do?’ and my only response to them that I could muster was, ‘not this’.”

Carter thanked the Indianapolis Police for their work this weekend and all other agencies in Indiana. Ending his address by saying that this is not the way to end complex and historic conflicts and accept mistakes made in the past, taking a step forward.

Indiana National Guard Adjutant General, Dale Lyles, discussed the position of the Indiana National Guard during the time of the protests. “We were alerted and placed in standby to provide civil support to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, the Indiana State Police and communities throughout Indiana,” Lyles said. “The Reactionary Force is an Indiana National Guard unit specifically designated to provide the governor with a rapid capability to respond quickly to events we saw this weekend.”

Adjutant General Lyles discussed the vetting and training process for those in the Reactionary Force unit. All of whom aim to insure that all assigned are ready and able to perform task needed to assist local law enforcement. None of which were requested on Saturday.

“On Sunday, with the support of the Indiana State Police, soldiers and airmen from the Reactionary Force established a presence at state properties in downtown Indianapolis to protect century’s old monuments that were defaced on Saturday,” Lyles stated. “Also on Sunday, airmen from the 122nd fighter wing located in Fort Wayne, Indiana deployed to provide support to the Fort Wayne local police department.”

With over 12,000 service men and women in the Indiana National Guard, they are able to support situations from the coronavirus pandemic to defense support. Lyles pledged the continued support for food bank operations, COVID-19 testing, PPE warehousing distribution, Indiana department of corrections and other COVID-19 associated missions.

Governor Holcomb closed the address by discussing how it is unconscionable to him that “someone would threaten someone’s life and/or go to the monuments that were [previously] referred to, that represent men and women that gave their lives so that people would have the first amendment right to assemble peacefully. To speak peacefully in an attempt to make progress.”

“Folks who are seeking to destroy that service and their memories are not in this to peacefully protest. [So,] we will we on the scene and we will continue to first and foremost work with local officials throughout our state, statewide and arrive at an answer that is in unison,” Governor Holcomb said. “We want to work together. We want to compliment one another’s efforts. That is how we are going to get through this to those better days.”

In response to the governors’ call with President Trump, Governor Holcomb said that the main idea was, “don’t get caught watching the paint dry. Don’t just be in a reactionary mode… We need to make sure we are properly staged and position to meet this moment.”

“[The federal government is] tracking, as are we, a very organized effort that’s domestic terrorism in the extreme across the country. And no state, no community is immune,” Holcomb said. “We are seeing peaceful protests that start out, as I mentioned, with a noble cause in mind. Those seeking to right wrongs of the past, to get us on a better path. We welcome that. We want to be part of that.

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