INDIANAPOLIS — Over the weekend, State Senator Eddie Melton (D-Gary) and State Senator J.D. Ford (D-Indianapolis) joined a group of Hoosiers on the south steps of the Indiana Statehouse for the ‘Beyond the Big Tent – Black Voices in Politics’ rally.
Following a thunderstorm alert and the sudden appearance of extreme weather conditions, a group of approximately 50 people were directed into the entrance of the Statehouse by the senators to wait out the storm. After the group entered the building, Capitol Police located inside rushed over to the senators, quickly escalating the situation into an aggressive confrontation.
Sen. Ford described the incident in the following way:
“Senator Melton and I were at the Statehouse for a rally to support Black voices in politics. We were gathered outside in order to maintain social distance. A fast-moving and violent storm hit downtown, so Senator Melton and I swiped our ID badges to let the group in to seek shelter from the elements. Immediately, we were approached by facilities staff and private security who demanded to see our credentials. The security staff initially gave us the OK to be there, but then called the Capitol Police over to question us as well. It was then that two Capitol Police officers approached us. This interaction with the officers was aggressive from the start and could have been de-escalated, but was not.”
Sen. Melton released the following statement in response to the incident:
“It’s unfortunate that this situation had to take place,” Sen. Melton said. “Senator Ford and I have already reached out to President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray and Lieutenant Beamon about the matter, and we are addressing this internally in a more formal process. The only reason I am releasing a public statement is because attendants of the rally have already begun sharing their account of the incident on social media. I want to be clear that I don’t want this situation to become a distraction from the work that we’re doing through the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus on our police reform agenda.”
Sen. Ford also released the following statement on the incident:
“It is an unfortunate irony that my good friend and colleague Senator Eddie Melton experienced some of the same police bias we were there to speak out against. These kinds of incidents are all too common for Black and brown Hoosiers. The only difference is that this time I had a front-row seat and got to see with my own eyes exactly why so many Hoosiers are so upset with the way they are often treated by law enforcement.
“I unequivocally stand with Senator Melton and all members of our Black and brown communities who face police bias. I understand the officer involved must have not realized we were senators since we were dressed in casual clothes, but that does not make it any better. This situation was handled extremely poorly by the Capitol Police. No member of the public deserves to be treated that way, or spoken to so disrespectfully by officers who are there to serve the public.
“I think the best thing we can do right now is to continue with the formal internal process. I would like to invite the officers involved to join Senator Melton and I for a conversation so all of us can better understand each other and form a greater partnership between the community and law enforcement.”