By Colin Flaherty
Looking over one of the worst crimes scenes in the history of downtown Indianapolis, state trooper Rod Russell was sad.
“It’s just a few people who make it bad for everyone,” Russell said.
But the “few” were thousands of blacks who roamed the streets of downtown in the aftermath of an Indianapolis Black Expo marred by fighting, vandalizing, assaulting and even shooting. Lots of shooting. Ten people were taken to local hospitals with bullet wounds.
“Why did we find an AK-47 in the back of someone’s car,” asked Frank Straub, director of public safety, about the 2010 rampage. No one knew, other than the fact the violence is a tradition at the annual event – despite 300 police officers on the street to stop it.
YouTube is now part of the tradition as well: Much of the illegal behavior is captured on video.
Organizers for the Black Expo said their group was “isolated” from anything that had gone wrong.
But in comparison, there was another event recently that attracted hundreds of thousands of people to Indianapolis: the annual Indianapolis 500 at the city’s Speedway.
On race day, state police issued 35 tickets — 27 for underage drinking, two for fake identification and one each for littering, intoxication, false informing and possession of marijuana.
The criminal behavior in Indianapolis during Black Expo is part of a nationwide trend of hundreds of episodes of racial group violence in more than 50 cities over the last three years.
“Before the  Expo, a lot of people in Indianapolis were complaining about the police presence, saying it was too much and it was racist,” said Jake Finnegan, an Indianapolis resident. “But then we saw what happened and they shut up.”
That was 2010. In the run-up to the 2011 Expo, city officials announced a massive increase in police presence. Even so, two weeks before it opened, several people were shot and police broke up several “disturbances” with pepper spray in downtown Indianapolis – all involving groups of blacks near the Canal, witnesses say.
“The violence comes at a sensitive time for city officials,” reported the Indianapolis Star newspaper, because they worry about the image of the downtown and its links to violence.
The 2011 Black Expo passed without large-scale shootings or riots. Event organizer and talk show host Amos Brown III proclaimed the Expo was “violence free!”
“The media hype of last year’s tragedy obscured the fact that the 39 previous Expos were relatively violence free, too,” he told the Star.
But records reveal arrests in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. And the Web holds dozens of video clips showing shootings, police drawing guns and people getting tasered along with lots of other lawless behavior during this time.
Even the Star said, “Although none of the shootings or fights was directly connected to Summer Celebration events or venues, the annual celebration of black culture that attracts more than 200,000 people downtown during its 11-day run has been inescapably tied to the violence.”
Despite the record of violence and lawlessness at their events, officials of the Black Expo sponsored a public forum in Indianapolis to protest the shooting of Trayvon Martin.
“During the course of the forum, an audience member boldly asked if African-Americans should launch an armed struggle,” wrote panelist Brandon Perry in the Indianapolis Recorder. “I hope I’m wrong about this, but the ‘gasps’ came from a few who seemed to advocate armed conflict against racists or the government.”
Just a few weeks ago, two young whites out for an evening stroll near the downtown canal were assaulted by a mob of seven black men. And on YouTube, a resident of Indianapolis posted in May a video of the aftermath of a large group of black people fighting that ended with three people shot and one dead.
“It’s like the L.A. riots out there,” said a video poster known as Justin Beagle who captured the essence of the violence at the 2010 events.
City officials, local media and Expo organizers may downplay the lawlessness of downtown Indianapolis. But YouTube is full of rap videos featuring Indianapolis black people reveling in murder, violence, theft and drug dealing. They even brag about it in videos that cannot be embedded because of the language.
The violence is all too much for Indianapolis attorney Abdul Hakim-Shabazz.
“There is a criminal element in this town that consists primarily of young black men,” said Hakim-Shabazz in his website Indiana Barrister. “The recent attacks on the Monon; the perpetrators were young black men. The ‘Pop It Off Boys’ gang; young black men. The most high ridden crime areas of the city, who are the bad guys? Say it with me, they are usually young black men.
“Indianapolis, you have a problem. Your problem is young, black men who are out of control.”
Even so, organizers remain hopeful that people with short memories will continue to ignore racial violence. Local television reporter Deanna Dewberry could have been speaking for them all when she reported, prior to the last Black Expo, “leaders hope this week people only notice fun, successful celebrations. “
The 2012 event begins July 12.
Colin Flaherty is an award-winning reporter whose work has appeared in more than 1,000 media outlets around the world, including the Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times and WND. His critically acclaimed book, “White Girl Bleed a Lot: The Return of Racial Violence to America and How The Media Ignore It,” is in its second edition and available in paperback and e-book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other popular outlets.