The following statement was provided to Where the River Frowns by Shannon, Ricky Ard's niece:
The Ard family would like to express our deepest gratitude to the community for the heartfelt outpouring of sympathy. We are very much appreciative of all the expressions of support.
Around 11 a.m., about a dozen people gathered outside the Winfield K. Benton Federal Building in downtown Evansville to stand up against the police killing of 55-year-old Evansville native Ricky Ard, who had been fatally shot there twenty-four hours before.
One protester stated that his goal was to call attention to Ard's killing and to take a strong stand against the police so that they think twice in the future before killing more people.
Ard was shot and killed by police yesterday, August 29, 2017, outside of the federal building by an Evansville police officer who has been identified as Kenny Dutschke and a federal security officer employed by the U.S. Marshals who has yet to be identified. Surveillance cameras on site show that Ard had a baseball bat and had smashed out the front windows of the federal building.
Early this morning, workers eliminated the elaborate memorial that Evansville residents had created the night before outside the building, washing away chalk from the public sidewalk and throwing away posters, candles and stuffed animals left by mourners.
Evansville residents gathered tonight outside the Winfield K. Denton Federal Building to hold a vigil for Ricky Ard who was murdered earlier today by police.
Approximately sixty people attended the spontaneous vigil, which was organized by word of mouth and social media. Although no centralized group took responsibility for organizing the event, the group appeared unified in their message that Ard's murder was unjustified.
An Evansville police officer and a federal security officer employed by the U.S. Marshals shot and killed an Evansville man, 55-year-old Ricky Ard, outside the Winfield K. Benton Federal Building in downtown Evansville today.
Police allege that Ard smashed out the front windows of the federal building with a baseball bat and was complaining about "the government" during the confrontation. One witness, Andrew Wolfe, interviewed by the Evansville Courier and Press, said that the police tried to use a Taser on Ard, but it "didn't work." According to police, Ard was kicked out of the Federal Building yesterday after some sort of incident.
Of course, Ard cannot tell his own side of the story, and as of yet, no information is available from his family or loved ones that could shed light on this incident.
EPD spokesperson Sgt. Jason Cullum could not confirm whether or not the officer's body camera was on during the shooting. If it was, the video will eventually become public record but could be withheld from the public during an investigation period. Video from surveillance cameras attached to the federal building has yet to be released.
According to the project Killed by Police, which tracks police murders, Ricky Ard is the 804th person killed by police in the U.S. in 2017. According to The Counted, a project that tracked police murders last year, police killed 1,092 people in the U.S. in 2016.
According to their press release, the Evansville Police Department claims the officers believed "the man’s continued violent behavior posed an immediate threat of serious bodily injury or death," and that "the officers discharged their firearms to protect themselves." They also stated, in a Tweet, that the officers had used "multiple de-escalation techniques" prior to shooting Ard.
But some Evansville residents have taken issue with this claim, wondering why two armed and trained officers could not resolve this incident without loss of life.
Jeremy Wilson, an Evansville resident, wrote in comments on Facebook: "They should of shot him in the shoulder or leg, he should still be alive. They are trained to aim before firing. My point is they killed a guy who had a bat! A bat! This should of been handled so different than just killing him... They should of went and picked up a couple Jim Town thugs and said 'give you guys 20$ bucks to disarm him.' And watch what they would of done with out killing him...if they would have done their job this guy would be alive right now getting mentally assessed and figuring out what he needs to get to the help he needs, not put down like a rabid dog."
Another resident wondered why the officers had failed to properly deploy their Tasers: "Help me understand something...Officers are trained to protect and serve right? You can shoot a man 4 to 5 times with a gun but you can't hit him once with a tazer? Yeah great job."
As usual, the corporate media sprung into immediate action, helping the police justify the killing, parroting police talking points word-for-word, and working to vilify Ard. Article headlines on the Evansville Courier and Press website read "Witness: Man was swinging bat before fatal shooting" and "EPD: Taser, talk failed before fatal police shooting at federal building." And in a sentence so contrived as to be laughable were it not so common, 14 News mysteriously stated that "A man died after an officer-involved shooting." How the officers were "involved" and how the man "died" are left to speculation.
Editors' Note (August 30, 2017): An earlier draft of this article contained a photo, taken by the Evansville Courier and Press, of Ricky Ard's body. This photo has been removed at the request of Ricky's family.
On Friday, July 21, banners hung across Evansville expressing support for those arrested during the protests against Donald Trump's inauguration in Washington, D.C. on January 20 of this year.
The banners appeared during a week of solidarity called by the Crimethinc Ex-Worker's Collective. According to the announcement for the event, the week of solidarity was called to coincide with a hearing in Federal Court in Washington D.C. on July 27, in which a judge will hear a motion to dismiss the multiple felony charges against the more than 200 defendants in the case. More information on the case is available at defendj20resistance.org.
The banners, which were dropped at various points along the Lloyd Expressway as well as along the Greenway Passage on the Evansville riverfront, made use of a new marketing campaign, "Evansville--e is for everyone," created by Evansville's business leaders in an attempt to re-brand Evansville as friendly to commerce and development. The new brand, which many worry is an attempt at fueling gentrification in the city, has appeared in shop windows and city buildings throughout Evansville in recent months.
The modification and use of this new brand in support of protesters facing government repression is an example of détournement, a tactic of political subversion in which the symbols and images of those in power are altered to be expressions of resistance. This tactic has a long and rich history, from the Situationist International to Adbusters.
by Those neighbors you called the police on last week
In 1824, prospectors drilled two salt water wells at Maryland Street and Fountain Avenue on the eastern banks of Pigeon Creek in Lamasco, Indiana. They auspiciously intended to open up a salt factory and expand their fortunes but would have no such luck. Despite their ambitious investments into the project, they quickly learned the water was too salty for the primitive desalination equipment of the times and the landscape proved too hostile for their endeavor and were forced to abandon it.
This saltiness and hostility toward the upper class--the "burghers" (literally German for "wealthy out of towners") as they came to be known locally until the mid-1900s–-has permeated the neighborhood throughout its history.
After weeks of indecision, I finally decided to make the five hour drive from Evansville to Pikeville, Kentucky, last weekend to attend a neo-Nazi rally. To be real, I didn't totally feel like going. I mean, who wants to spend their weekend listening to arguments in favor of sending gay people and people in mixed race relationships off to re-education camps? It sounded super annoying and it would have been easier to just avoid the whole thing.
But I've been getting more and more concerned lately about the growth of white nationalist movements, all these racist attacks on marginalized groups, and the way the white working class is hitting the streets in support of a billionaire and his fascist policies. Like anybody who's read a few history books, particularly about the growth of fascist movements in Europe in the 1930s, I don't like the way the winds are blowing.
Plus, this shit felt personal given the fact that one of the main groups organizing the event--the Traditionalist Worker Party--has its home base just a few miles up the road in Paoli, Indiana, and its shitbag leader, Matthew Heimbach, has told the media about how he thinks people in Southern Indiana are really open to his dreams of concentration camps and white ethno-states: "Southern Indiana's a natural home for our politics...You have struggling working-class issues; you have the frustration and alienation from Washington insider politics. We need to be where people are being left behind, and I think there are few places that can compete with Kentucky (and) Indiana."
A couple of weeks ago, I left Evansville, Indiana, to spend time in southern Arizona working with No More Deaths, a humanitarian aid group that aims to prevent death in the Sonoran desert, where 170 bodies and human remains were recovered in 2016 alone. For the past twenty years, heightened obstacles along the U.S.-Mexico border have funneled people migrating north to do so in remote and treacherous areas, such as around the town of Arivaca, Arizona, where I've been staying. I am offering water, food, and medical care to migrants to be in solidarity with them, to accompany them briefly in their journey and to take a political stand against the ongoing immigration crisis. To read more about the situation and my motivation for spending time in Arizona, you can read my previous post here.
Someone asked me recently what I've learned so far in my first two weeks. A couple of things came to mind.
First, walking from Mexico to the U.S. can take much longer than I thought; sometimes 14 miles as the crow flies can take a week or longer, especially when people lose their guide, become sick or injured, or have to hide from Border Patrol. Depending on where a group launches their journey, several days could be spent walking on the Mexican side before crossing as well. Folks who have stumbled upon our camp since I've been here have sometimes walked for 8 or 9 days.
Members of Evansville's Critical Thought Collective will give a presentation on Thursday, April 20th on the continuing threat of white nationalism and what we can do about it. The event, which is sponsored by the USI Philosophy Club, will begin at 6:30pm at the Rice Library at USI, room 011. The presentation will include information on the upcoming white nationalist gathering in Pikeville, Kentucky, a brief history of white nationalist activity regionally, information on recent attacks and harassment against marginalized groups in the region, and information on active white supremacist groups in the region and methods of confronting them.
For the next five weeks, I'll be distributing food, water, medical supplies, and other necessities to people who are crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and walking north through the southern Arizona desert with the hope of a better life in the U.S.
Although the U.S.-Mexico border may seem distant, border dynamics and immigration policy affect those of us in Southern Indiana, too. In Vanderburgh County, 4,800 residents are immigrants. Of those, an estimated 1,522 (31.7%) have no formal residency status, and about half of those without papers have been in the U.S. for thirteen years or more.
For immigrants (as well as their friends, family and community members), the risk for attacks, exploitation, and deportation are increasing along with fear and psychological stress that accompany these realities. In one week in February 2017, for instance, over 100 people in Indiana and Kentucky were arrested in a series of immigration raids. For those deported, getting back to Indiana and Kentucky might come with significant physical risk (including risk of death) and financial burden. Immigrants in Southern Indiana who manage to avoid raids like these might attempt to become more hidden or "well-behaved" and, in turn, more vulnerable to abuse from bosses, landlords and police. Meanwhile, the criminalization of immigration benefits private prisons by filling their cages, which increases the prisons' income from the federal government who pays the prisons to house inmates. These same prisons help to write the immigration legislation that criminalize immigration and keep the prison business lucrative.