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UPDATE: Protest that closed roads to the Borman Expressway ends up being a dozen on street corner
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UPDATE: Protest that closed roads to the Borman Expressway ends up being a dozen on street corner

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HAMMOND — Police shut down Calumet Avenue in both directions at the Little Calumet River near Interstate 80/94, including the ramps from Interstate 80/94 to Calumet Avenue, for most of the day Tuesday, but the rumored protest ended up being small and peaceful.

Police closed down several roads for fear demonstrators would take over the highway, posing a danger to others and themselves. Ultimately, about a dozen people gathered on the corner of Calumet Avenue and 175th Street in Hammond Tuesday evening. They stood on the corner waving signs and chanting "say his name: George Floyd" and "no justice, no peace" as passing motorists honked.

A few drivers stopped to give them coolers full of cold water bottles. One protester ran across the street to offer iced bottled water to a counter-protester with a Blue Lives Matter sign and an assault rifle slung to his back. He declined.

A police officer briefly stopped to talk with the demonstrators. They offered each other cold bottled water, and the cop ended up giving a 24-ounce Red Bull to a young protester.

Morgan Taylor said the protesters were tired of police killings of unarmed African Americans.

"I'm hurt. I'm angry. I want justice," she said. "I almost physically threw up watching the video. I bawled my eyes out and had nightmares the next day. This has been going on forever, but now it's recorded. I think it was literally seeing it, having a full video, watching him be alive and then seeing the soul leave his body."

Protester Aaron Jackson said such killings have happened too many times and police always get away with it, with little more than a slap on the wrist or the loss of their job.

"Up until this point, no one has listened to our cries," he said. "We're not going to stop until there's justice. There's no reason the people we're supposed to go to for help are killing us."

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Victor Mendez said people are fed up with innocent civilians being harassed, discriminated against and killed by police. 

"If you can look me in the eyes and tell me what happened to George Floyd was not wrong, you are part of the problem," he said. "There is no neutral side. You pick a side and stick with that side until you win. And my side is, no justice, no peace."

Counter-protester Gilberto Arelano said he was concerned about the possibility of looting like that which took place in Calumet City and Lansing Sunday. He said he believed the officers involved in Floyd's killing should be held accountable but that there was no reason to protest here.

"What happened in Minneapolis has nothing to do with Indiana," he said. "Four bad cops did a bad thing. They were wrong and they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible under the law. But to riot and loot down Torrence Avenue and the River Oaks mall, there's no reason for that. These people have never even been to Minneapolis. All police aren't bad. One bad cop does not make all of them bad, just like when one black person commits a crime it doesn't make all of them bad. That's an analogy everybody should take home. If one bad apple ruins the whole bunch, then civilization is (expletive.)" 

Indiana State Police said the ramps to Interstate 80/94 to Indianapolis Boulevard and Kennedy Avenue would remain open. INDOT could opt to close them depending on conditions, Highland police said.

Munster officials shut down Calumet Avenue about noon, and closed it all the way south to Ridge Road. Police said it late Tuesday night would remain closed until at least Wednesday morning.

Hammond police cautioned any would-be protesters against entering the expressway.

"If you're considering being part of this protest, please reconsider for public safety reasons," Lt. Steve Kellogg said. "There are plenty of locations that peaceful protests can take place that cities are open and welcome to, but the expressway is not one of them."

The nonprofit Illinois Trucking Association tweeted a warning to its members Tuesday to avoid the Borman Expressway in Hammond because protesters might attempt to enter the interstate.

Calumet Avenue shut down ahead of possible protest near I-80/94

No protesters were seen in the area about noon, as police and work crews set up barriers and shut down Calumet Avenue.

Highland police also planned to barricade parking at the old Coach USA lot and other vacant parking lots along Indianapolis Boulevard and Kennedy Avenue. 

Highland officers went door-to-door Tuesday to stores in the town's main commerce hub along U.S. 41, suggesting that shops close down, Highland Cmdr. John Banasiak said.

Banasiak said information was gathered that there may be some people targeting businesses for looting and stealing and that police ensured local stores were informed. He said the police presence along U.S. 41 in Highland had been greatly enhanced. He said the main concern was for dollar stores, electronics businesses, jewelry shops and big box stores.

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As of Tuesday afternoon, he said there had been no theft or property damage incidents.

In Lansing, exits at Torrence Avenue were closed about 2 p.m. by police.

The road closures were expected to remain in place until further notice.

Some retail businesses in the area closed as a precaution, including the Walmart on Indianapolis Boulevard in Hammond, the Target in Munster, and the Dick’s Sporting Goods in Schererville.

Schererville Chief of Police Peter Sormaz said the police department has gotten information that protesters may organize at the Shops on Main business area in the 100 block of U.S. 41. Police immediately contacted the town’s public safety officials and property owners.

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“The police department appreciates the cooperation provided and will mobilize to serve and protect citizens of the town and property owners and businesses,” Sormaz said.

No unrest was reported Monday night into Tuesday morning in Hammond, where Mayor Thomas McDermott had ordered an overnight curfew for the second day in a row.

Hammond was one of several communities in the Region where demonstrators have gathered to call for an end to racism and police misconduct and better treatment of minority communities since George Floyd was killed last week by a police officer in Minneapolis.

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Floyd's death has sparked unrest across the nation, with protests in East Chicago, Hammond, Crown Point, Hobart, Portage and Michigan City in recent days.

Times Staff Writers Anna Ortiz and Joseph S. Pete contributed to this report. 

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.

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