CARMEL — People gathered at the Civic Square in Carmel on Sunday for a protest called “Sit-in against Racial Injustice.” Organizers say the event was held to wake up Carmel in hopes it will empower people to push for change.
Ashten Spilker knew now was time to speak up after an incident that happened at her home.
“I put a hashtag black lives matter sign in my front yard, and at some point in the middle of the night or earlier morning, somebody came by and slashed out the word black,” said Spilker.
That prompted her and her two friends Breanna Hargrove and Kayla Seymour to bring change to their neighborhood.
“If you come by and vandalize my sign, I will go out every day and repair it if need be,” Spilker added.
“I thought it would be a great idea to bring it to Carmel,” Hargrove explained after attending many of the protests in downtown Indianapolis. “Carmel is not known for being very diverse.”
The three women organized the sit-in, a protest that brought dozens of demonstrators together to listen to speakers like William Howard and express the need for change and learn what needs to happen next.
“My story is like many others in the African American community, and that’s the story of being frustrated and angry and sad,” said Howard.
“We’re all in this together,” added Seymour. “It’s not just about one side or the other, we all want to bring unity one way or another.”
Following the two hour sit-in, protesters marched through Carmel to demand the Carmel Police Department reform and review their policies.
“We want preventative measures in place, we want it written explicitly in their policy that these uses of these holds that we’re seeing across the country that are killing people of color, we want them to not be allowed,” said Spilker.
The protesters also want all officers to be trained to report profiling, and that police should be required to collect and make data public about the race and ethnicity of people who are being stopped or arrested.
“We not only presented demands to the police department, but we want to see the city change,” Spilker explained.
The group is demanding that Carmel schools add black history into the curriculum year-round, and that Mayor Jim Brainard adds people of color in the statues on Main Street.
Those are changes that residents like Ti’Gre McNear want to see soon.
“It’s going to be hard work, but they are listening, and they hear,” said McNear. “People are tired, and they want to see differently, and it starts locally like protests and sit-ins like this that are peaceful and impactful, and I believe we’re going to see a shift in our country.”
“It’s empowering to see that people believe in us, they believe in this community, they believe in change,” Seymour added.
Click here to read all the changes that the protesters would like to see addressed. So far, they have over 500 signatures on their petition.
We reached out to the City of Carmel and the police department for comment on these requests and as of now, have not heard back.