BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WISH) — Concerns over armed protesters are circulating after two nights of demonstrations in Bloomington.
News 8 learned more about the group behind the weapons, which is called Citizens Protest Response and Safety Inc.
Leaders told WISH-TV in part they are “well-trained, well-disciplined citizens who believe in providing protesters alternatives to policing. We feel it is unfortunate that anyone might not understand that our only aim was to prioritize the safety of all people, regardless of their views of protesting, police and the rights of the Second Amendment.”
The downtown Bloomington protests were in support of Vauhxx Booker, the Black man who said he was nearly lynched at Lake Monroe.
Protest organizer Patrick Ford tells said he never asked the men with guns to show up, but we do have video of members addressing a crowd of protesters.
Ford said “I have heard the concern within Bloomington regarding the armed security that surrounded the courthouse square. I am adamantly stating that at no point did I have any sort of communication and/or invite this group to Bloomington. My mission is for peace and prosperity.”
Bert Ramsey was at work in downtown Bloomington during both demonstrations. He said he wasn’t bothered by it until he saw men with guns blocking traffic.
“First reaction was this could get ugly. People get confronted with a situation like that they’ve never had happen to them. They might run you over, they might be carrying themselves,” said Ramsey.
Austin Schrougham said he was also working downtown both nights and he didn’t have a problem with the weapons.
“It’s their right to carry the guns and some protesters just got hit by a car the other day. If they feel they need to protect the protesters then that’s fine.”
Audreanna Passwaiter photographed the protests and said her issue wasn’t people carrying weapons, but that it didn’t look like a team effort.
“It should be organized with the police if anything, so it doesn’t seem like they were doing this just to intimidate people,” said Passwaiter.
Wednesday night’s protest was canceled because of safety concerns surrounding the armed protesters.
Ford tells us he is planning a third demonstration Friday night. He plans to use the next couple of days to address any issues.