Peaceful rallies held in Avon and Brownsburg
By Gus Pearcy
Two peaceful assemblies took place Thursday evening in Avon and Brownsburg concerning racism sparked by the recent unrest due to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police officers.
Both events were rallies and were heavily promoted on the Facebook “chatter” pages. Brownsburg had the largest turnout of 300-350 people by estimates of several police and officials. Although heavily redacted by Brownsburg Police due to safety concerns, the application for a public gathering required for events held on public property called the event a peaceful protest and was applied for by Becky Schroer of Brownsburg.
Schroer’s application did not identify a sponsoring organization. On the application Schroer wrote “No organization…peaceful protest encouraging justice for all.” The event was held on the grounds of the Brownsburg Town Hall during the Farmers Market.
Homemade signs were held, and various people spoke about their experiences and advocating for equality and justice for all. Most of the speakers observed were African American.
Schroer could not be found during the protest, but Becky Reich, who said she was from Brownsburg and was a co-organizer for the event said most people showed up from Facebook and “friends telling friends” and “residents pulling together residents.”
“You listen to the kids speak,” Reich said. “They’re facing some real stuff every single day and we want to make sure that it doesn’t just keep happening. We can stand up and make a change. Seems like an easy answer.”
Reich said there were no costs associated with the protest. She said, “every system that is oppressing a person of color in the Town of Brownsburg should be looked at and changed.”
Payton Drane is an African American senior at Brownsburg High School who plans on majoring in photography in college. He said he was happy with the turnout and that he has experienced racism in the school system.
The assembly in Avon was smaller, still 150-200 people showed up to hear speakers talk about racism in the community and around the country. One young female African American spoke of being scared when she was pulled over by police. Organizer Marilyn Kolpien, a 2019 graduate of Avon High School, said the purpose of the event was to raise awareness of racial injustices in Avon and area communities and to allow the voices of people of color to be heard.
“When I saw the turnout, I cried,” she said. The Town of Avon decided to not hold a regularly scheduled meeting because, in part, out of respect for the assembly. Town Manager Tom Klein said the event was constitutionally guaranteed and as long as the attendees were not blocking any thoroughfares or safety violations, the assembly was allowed. However, Avon Police had to restrict one lane of U.S. 36 to protect people who were streaming in from parking lots far away from Town Hall Park where the event was held.
Pastor Kenneth Martin of John Wesley Free Methodist Church of Indianapolis which partners with Light and Life Church in Avon, was asked to pray at the Avon gathering. He is African American and said he was surprised to see the event organized by two young white women.
“I’m just so excited to see young people gather together, white and black,” he said. “That’s been my passion.”
“We’ve got to come together,” he added. “So, I focus on the church where we have been separate – the white church, the black church – so we have to deal with that.”
Both events had voter registration booths in the crowd. The Avon booth identified as being organized by The Mission Continues. The Brownsburg booth was operated by Cindy Hohman of Brownsburg, a member of the Hendricks County Democrat Party who volunteered to sign up voters. She said she was not asked by anyone or any organization to be present.
“I believe in everybody’s right to vote,” she said. “I’m not asking you what your party is before you register, I’m asking what county you are because that’s what I got to deliver to registration.”