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WATCH NOW: Mayor joins protesters outside courthouse in Crown Point
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WATCH NOW: Mayor joins protesters outside courthouse in Crown Point

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CROWN POINT — A Black Lives Matter protest brought life, but no violence Monday afternoon to the downtown square.

More than 30 young men and women shouted, “no justice, no peace,” and “George Floyd.” They held “I can’t breathe” signs and lay down on the sidewalk outside the old Lake County Courthouse.

Protesters faced angry questions about why they were here.

They said were protesting the May 25 death of George Floyd, who died in police custody after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes. The officer has since been charged with third-degree murder.

One protester, Cedric Caschetta, congratulated the group, saying, “We went from lockdown to the biggest thing here,” in response to a crowd of more than 60 onlookers.

Crown Point Mayor David Uran, who watched and spoke to the protest, praised their peaceful demeanor in the face of some cat calls from some gathered on the opposite side of Main Street.

“Boo, shame on you,” one man shouted at the protesters.

Other protesters told angry onlookers, “Shut the hell up” and “Get back on the other side of the street.”

Mayors call for calm at Region protests

Crown Point police, who were out in force, stepped between Uran and other angry onlookers. Officers parked two large police cars on Main Street between the two camps.

Uran and some officers told the protesters they were there to protect them and the right of free speech.

“Let your voices be heard,” the mayor said.

Amaya Butler, a black resident of Crown Point, spoke to fellow protesters and said, “All lives matter when black lives matter. At one (protest) I was antagonized by police and chased, but I would do it all over again. I ask the police, 'What side do you want to be on?'"

Nia Wells, a black resident of Merrillville, told the protesters, “I didn’t expect so many of you here today."

WATCH NOW: 'We will breathe again:' Region protesters emphasize peace, faith over violence

“It is hard being a person of color in Indiana, where the Ku Klux Klan once had influence, "Wells said. "I feel like I walk on eggshells and have to put on my white voice so others don’t feel threatened.”

Pastor David Hamstra of Crosspoint Church in Crown Point, who is white, said a prayer with the protesters, “I’m so sorry for what you have been experiencing. I pray we have humility and can do some soul searching so your voice counts. I pray for a lasting change.”

The downtown square, which was empty of cars only weeks ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic, was jammed with traffic during the protest.

UPDATE: Council member resigning after suggesting harm to protesters

Some honked support and gave a clenched-fist salute. One driver was so busy looking at the protest she rear-ended the car in front of her. Police quickly got the minor accident off to the side.

The mayor said his job Monday afternoon was to give the protesters room and ensure there was no property damage as in other cities where protests have given way to broken glass, fires and looting.

“Our businesses are scared,” Uran said. A number of them were closed. A workman boarded up the glass storefront of the Blue Ribbon Heritage antique store.

The protesters even moved off the grass of the courthouse and onto the sidewalk at the mayor’s request.

After about 90 minutes of speeches and chants, the mayor invited the group to march north of Main Street with himself and a police escort away from downtown.

Region schools close, cancel activities amid protest concerns

Some of the onlookers outside a downtown bar shouted, “blue lives matter” as they marched off.

The mayor and the protesters walked about 2 1/2 miles north to the Lake County Government Center before the protest broke up with a final group prayer and the protesters returned by the bike path to avoid holding up traffic.

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