Film Photography

Downtown Indianapolis after the protests

It would have been much better to share these photos closer to the day I made them, which was the first of July. The nationwide protests were still happening then, in the wake of George Floyd’s death in the hands of Minneapolis police.

I had been avoiding Downtown. But my work laptop quit working and corporate IT needed me to bring it in for repair. That meant a visit to our Indianapolis office in the heart of the protest area. I knew I’d be seeing my city all boarded up, so I took a camera. But I shot film, and film takes time, especially since I shot color and have to send it out for processing.

This is the building in which I work. It’s on both the Michigan and National Roads, better known as Washington Street in Indianapolis. Walking up to the building, I felt like I’d stepped into an episode of The Twilight Zone. I was saddened, and I felt a little anger deep down, both over the destruction and the generational, pervasive poor treatment of Black Americans that led to it.

After the protests

After IT fixed my laptop I walked up and down Washington for a few blocks. This is what I saw there.

After the protests
After the protests
After the protests
After the protests
After the protests
After the protests
After the protests
After the protests
After the protests

After seeing photos of colorful murals on boarded-up windows in other cities, the many bare boards on Washington Street surpried me. Maybe it’s the same in other cities, but nobody shows the unpainted boards.

After a few blocks, I turned around and walked to Monument Circle, the heart of Downtown.

After the protests
After the protests
After the protests
After the protests
After the protests

The southeast quadrant of the Circle was closed to traffic for the weekly summer farmer’s market. It is normally held a few blocks away on Market Street, between City Market and the City County Building, but street work there has moved the market to the Circle all summer. I felt encouraged to see it there. I’d seen a number of news photos of protesters on the Circle, including heartbreaking photos of a minivan driving right into some protesters. The farmer’s market felt to me like a reclaiming of the space for good, normal life.

Farmer's Market
Farmer's Market
Farmer's Market

I’m infuriated that as a nation we still don’t treat Black people with the full honor and respect due any human being. I hope these protests, along with those across the nation, cause us to finally face and change our shameful racist behavior.

Seeing my city like this was hard. But it’s even harder for my Black neighbors that they have had to live for so long with fear and anger.

Olympus OM-2n, 40mm f/2 Zuiko Auto-S, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200.

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16 thoughts on “Downtown Indianapolis after the protests

  1. I have terribly mixed feelings about the scenes these pictures show. I wish we could have seen protests with thousands of citizens of all races marching and speaking with one voice. But it turned into a melee of wanton destruction.

    On one hand it shows that too many feel that the space is not their home, because who destroys their own home? But will the actions of the rioters help their cause? Or will they just add to the prejudices and stereotypes we are all trying to get beyond?

    • I’m reluctant to say that “the protesters” tore up Downtown. Some people I know protested, and they didn’t do any damage. They report that the strangers around them in the protest didn’t do any damage. I think it was a subgroup of the protesters who did it. They don’t represent all of the protesters.

      • tbm3fan says:

        There is always a subset group of people who will come out and take the opportunity to be violent because that is what they enjoy. I’ve seen them first hand in places like Berkeley since the city has had protests off and on since the late 60s. They are no different now. Same would hold true for Oakland and San Francisco. Bay Area seems to be a hotbed for the anonymous anarchists who love the cover of a protest. The big picture doesn’t interest them as their enjoyment comes from chaos and destruction and not non-violent protest.

  2. Roger Meade says:

    Well,Colin Kaepernik, one of the most talented, in demand players in the NFL tried silent respectful protest, and he’s been out of work for years. He is STILL out of work after the white commissioner publicly stated that Kaepernik was essentially right to do what he did. So what is left????

    • I think there has to be a continuum of responses and violent ones are on the far end of the continuum. However, there are far more violent responses than the ones that have happened.

  3. Powerful and moving images, Jim. Thank you for sharing. The murals are striking. I don’t like the violence and protests either but, like you. despise the idea that so many of our neighbors have lived silently oppressed for this long. It’s ridiculous.

    I’m currently reading John Lewis’ biography. He, of course, was part of the peaceful movement in the sixties where those young people didn’t even defend themselves, much less attack or destroy. It is sickening to read about the violence that met them in every city and town across the south. Buses were bombed and mobs attacked unarmed people in broad daylight, If anyone wonders where they learned destruction, you can easily trace it back to white people.

  4. What is our goal? What should we do to achieve it? How will we know if we’re making progress? We need to think about the answers to those questions.

      • I don’t know about “making” people do things. People of good faith do have different viewpoints about these issues. But I think for everyone, regardless of viewpoint, it would help to start talking much more specifically about what we think we want to accomplish and how we will know if we are accomplishing it. Most of our public discourse about this issue consists either of screaming at each other or reciting vacuous phrases about “racial justice“ and “lives matter,“ which express vague sentiments about which no one disagrees, partly because no one knows what they mean.

        • Most people don’t know how to form a cogent argument and a coherent platform, and to organize people around it to make an initiative real.

  5. We are watching history unfold before our eyes, mainly because we have not learned anything from the past. I wonder what the new normal is going to look like, we cannot go back…..

  6. It doesn’t matter when you share them, they are valid and important. As I have read, it is a movement not a moment, so any reminder or documentation is important.

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