The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, January 20, 2021 7:30 pm

No protesters at the Statehouse

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

For decades, people have rallied and protested at the Statehouse and the building never closed – until this week.

Almost 20,000 teachers rallied in 2019, and Organization Day went on.

Workers in the thousands have protested labor legislation several times over the years and session went on, albeit with legislative leaders getting personal protection during the right-to-work debate.

Dueling gay marriage rallies; protests against unlawful police entry; barbers and hair stylists – you name it the Statehouse has seen it.

That’s why news last week that the building would be closed to the public Tuesday and Wednesday and that the legislature canceled all activities for the week came as a surprise.

“Abundance of caution” was what state officials said even though they confirmed there were no credible threats in Indiana. The psyche of the nation was still fragile following a violent protest at the U.S. Capitol.

In the end, not a single protester even showed up at the Statehouse, much less a violent uprising.

Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray said Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter "made very clear it was his recommendation that we not come…and when someone with his expertise makes that suggestion I'm going to take it seriously, and we did. You have to look out for employees, the public, the members and everyone else in that building. People should be able to come into the building and testify on bills in a safe environment."

He went on to say if they had ignored the recommendation and an officer was injured, the state would be in an untenable position.

"I understand why people may raise their eyebrows now that we haven't seen violence materialize…but you have to take everything in context. Just two weeks ago we saw something horrific unfold in Washington, D.C. This decision was made with the benefit of that experience," Bray said in a lengthy statement.

But he promised the legislature will not shut down just because opponents to a bill make threats of a violent protest.

"Ultimately it will be up to us to come in and get our work done. Protests are not foreign to the Statehouse, there have been tens of thousands of people in that building saying yes or no to an idea. That's when that building is at its liveliest and at its most productive, and it will be that way again," Bray said. "We aren’t going to shy away from those conversations."

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