NewsPublic Affairs / July 14, 2014

Indianapolis Rallies Against Violence

Sam Klemet
Indianapolis Rallies Against Violence

Melissa Jude grew up in Indianapolis and is now raising her two children in the city.  But, she fears for their safety.

"My 15 year old, he is a really good kid and he's got really good friends, but I just fear, not for him and his friends ‒ what they would do ‒ but for other children and the way they are acting when they go places," she said.  "I just fear for them as innocent bystanders."

Jude was one of a couple hundred people who rallied downtown Saturday night in an effort to stand up against increasing violence.

The event was called Indy United and Jude says if Indianapolis doesn’t come to terms with how to combat the crime, it’s going to keep families from wanting to come and stay in the city.

"Our house has been attempted to be burglarized three times in like the last two months and just always look at the news and it's constant shootings and killings and then with the police officers not even being respected and shot, it's just too much," she said.

The rally was held the day after IMPD Officer Perry Renn was laid to rest, and a week after he was shot and killed.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard says he is angered by the recent events, but says he understands fixing the problems is going to take time.

"This is not a two- or three-year problem," Ballard said.  "This is a 25-year problem.  We've had this going on for 40 years now.  It's going to take us 20, 25 years to get out of it if we do the right things now."

"I'm tired of everybody saying do this and put more cops here," he continued. "Listen, this is a 25-year problem we have ahead of us.  We need to understand it, we need to get a hold of it, and together we need to fix it."

He says the violence issues stem from the breakdown of families and believes the city needs to do a better job guiding the its youth in a more productive direction.

"People want to blame the parents, but a lot of parents today have never seen a good parent.  They don't even know what one looks like," said Ballard. "In some way, we have to get a caring adult in front of them who will nurture them and love them.  Then we have a shot."

"We have to make sure the kid can read, they have a decent education, and that they realize that they are supposed to be a productive member of society and not fall into the subculture that is causing the havoc," he said.

Congressman Andre Carson spoke at the rally and told the crowd that the city cannot allow a small percentage of its population to give Indianapolis a bad reputation.

He wants the city to be reinvigorated by the display of unified support and thinks that type of cohesion is needed to put immediate dents in the problem.

"I hope we come out with a sense of purpose, a collective purpose.  I hope that we know that the only way we can change Indianapolis is if we are all active participants," said Carson.  "That means supporting law enforcement, supporting teachers, it means supporting one another.  But, more importantly it means taking a stand against the thuggery and violent behavior that is becoming so pervasive in our city, unfortunately."

In the wake of officer Renn’s death, Department of Public Safety Director Troy Riggs and IMPD Chief Rick Hite emphasized their want for tougher minimum mandatory sentences and ways to get assault weapons off the street.

Carson believes more can be done on both the state and federal levels.

"President Clinton had a huge, successful effort in the '90s.  I think we might want to revisit that.  Folks like myself, a former police officer, and strong supporter of the Second Amendment, I believe assault weapons should only be in the hands of law enforcement personnel and military," said Carson.  "I think there are some legislative issues that we must take, but I think a lot of it starts with the states.  I think it starts by appealing to our General Assembly, making sure we're getting tougher on some of our gun laws, making sure we are getting tough on background checks, supporting legislation that tightens up on universal background checks.  I think those are the steps."

And for Melissa Jude, who came out Saturday night in honor of her children, she thinks the Indy United rally was a step in the right direction.  But, says nothing will change if people don’t act on the message.

"I feel optimistic.  They talk great, but it's just let's see if they put it into action," said Jude.  "If they take it and actually, whatever they've learned from it, use it.  Instead of just talking about it, they need to be about it."