Prosecutor Mears deploys 12 armed cops against peaceful community members asking for meeting

For the third consecutive week, various community leaders and the family, friends, and loved ones of IMPD victim Gary Harrell organized a rally to demand a meeting with Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears. Like prior events, the action was initiated by Harrell’s family and community. An organic leadership is emerging with the invited support of trusted and well-established community organizations, like the Indianapolis Liberation Center and PSL Indianapolis, who have been with them since day one and have years of experience in the local, national, and international movement.

Residents have been specifically asking to meet with Mears so he can respond to simple questions about charging and prosecuting Douglas Correll, the IMPD officer who killed Harrell by shooting him in the back as he walked away from Correll. The earliest, partial, and heavily-edited bodycam footage shows Correll faced no threat from Harrell. Additionally, Correll has a documented history of racially-motivated excessive force, false arrest, and constitutional violations

The rally in many ways followed similar patterns, as participants held their signs high and shouted chants, such as “IMPD? That Spells Guilty!” and “Say His Name! Gary Harrell!”

There was one significant difference, however. At the request of Harell’s family and Black community leaders, organizations announced the action days in advance because, they said, they had already given Mears ample time to respond to their request. This, protesters speculate, is what accounted for the notably increased presence of armed police.

As community responds to all directives, Mears and city escalate tensions

After rallying outside, protestors moved into the building where community leader Pastor Denell Howard of the Hovey Street Church of Christ, was approached by a police representative. This reporter heard the police tell Howard “It’s a beautiful day outside, why don’t we move the protest out there?” In response, Howard said he and other residents wanted to exercise their right to access an elected representative to request a meeting.

The group seemed undeterred by the request and entered the Prosecutor’s reception area where Howard politely requested that the meeting Mears committed to at the September 5 rally take place that day. After making the request, the group adhered to the receptionist’s request that they move into the atrium while awaiting Mears’ response.

Upon moving into the atrium, the group waited as the number of police officers and sheriff’s deputies, prominently displaying their weapons on their waist bands, grew in numbers and surrounded the peaceful assembly gathered in a public atrium. Despite what appeared to be the group’s immediate compliance with all directives, once gathered, the cops surrounded the group.

Mears uses landlord and cops to block constituents from meeting with elected official

The response didn’t come from Mears, his representatives, or from any elected or appointed officials. Instead, Mears sent the building’s landlord who, surrounded by the growing number of armed police officers, demanded the public leave the building. The landlord provided no explanation, justification, or legal basis. Organizers later said they would pursue the legality of this in the future.

Because they didn’t provide any explanation, community leader Pastor Howard engaged in a short dialogue as additional cops–ensuring their weapons were clearly visible–piled in, likely because they knew citizens would be disappointed by yet another refusal of Mears or his representatives to meet with the public.

During the first protest, Mears initially agreed to a meeting but only sent representatives of his office to tell the crowd that there would be no meeting.

Community confused why they can’t meet with public officials

While it was clear that this news greatly upset those present, they nonetheless left quickly, quietly, and orderly. After everyone left the building, disillusioned with the lack of access to government officials, they expressed their anger with the IMPD for killing Harrell.

More fundamentally, they were confused why, despite the growing number of constituents who have consistently, peacefully, and respectfully requested the meeting, they had been lied to and now directly denied any access to the official who allegedly represents them.

ANSWER Indiana organizer Maddie Boyd seemed puzzled and outraged at what had occurred. As Boyd told this reporter, “This is the way they treat a family who’s grieving and their supporters? They call the police on us, the same ones who killed their loved one? Harrell’s mother is here. They don’t even have the decency to look her in the eyes and apologize for what they did to her son.”

“We’re fighting until the end”

One organizer of the overall campaign, Derek Ford, provided their assessment of the evolving situation: “It is clear that the dynamics of this struggle changed rapidly today,” they said, “with the city and police significantly increasing their commitment to prevent democratic dialogue and deliberation through intimidation and other tactics.”

Rather than serving to defuse the anger of those gathered, the increased police presence seemed only to further invigorate the protestors. As Dani Abdullah said to a fellow organizer, “they’re exposing themselves, and this makes me want to struggle harder, and I’m sure that it’s going to help bring even more people into the struggle. We’re fighting until the end.”

The community vowed to return again in even larger numbers to apply further pressure on the government and recommit to their stated demands:

  1. Charge IMPD cop Douglas Correll with the murder of Gary Harrell 
  2. Fire Correll from the IMPD with loss of pension
  3. Convict Correll for the murder of Gary Harrell.

At the time of publication, the Indianapolis Liberation Center has yet to receive any comment from the Prosecutor’s Office or communications department since we first reached out for a response on September 6.

Photo: Police confront peaceful protesters; Credit: Jared Grillo