INDIANAPOLIS — One of the leaders of protests in Indianapolis believes police are harassing him and have even tapped his phone.
His name is Malik Muhammad. He made waves when he hugged an Indianapolis Metropolitan police lieutenant outside the Governor’s Residence and then a couple of weeks later when he met with Gov. Eric Holcomb.
But it’s the officers who showed up at his friend’s house at 4 a.m. demanding to speak with him after he planned to have a peaceful march on Massachusetts Avenue over the weekend that have him speaking out.
Muhammad said he and friends hoped to mobilize a crowd for a peaceful educational protest on Massachusetts Avenue as they hopped from bar to bar.
But when they arrived just before midnight, the scene was not what they expected.
“Police officers everywhere, a helicopter flying around with a spotlight circling Mass Avenue,” Muhammad said.
While he said all plans were peaceful, authorities had a tip of something different, hearing of some sort of plan for an armed takeover.
Everyone was spooked, and Muhammad said they left after about an hour, around 1 a.m. Sunday.
Muhammad said the group was followed to a friend’s house in Fountain Square where he thought it was over until three officers knocked on the door at 4 a.m.
“It’s an invasion of privacy. You can’t just say, ‘I’m not going to leave until I speak with this person’ and not even know for a fact that person is in this house,” said Muhammad. “Some sort of violation of rights.”
He admits he was scared to go out that door, even with his friend, who’s an attorney, by his side.
“A little bit, yeah, yeah, I was scared. I was scared,” he said with a laugh.
Muhammad said they talked for about five minutes where he was told whatever he was planning needed to stop, though he said the conversation was cordial.
He adds other members of law enforcement approached both his friends and family members beginning Friday about his intent and more were approached on Sunday, well after they had gone home.
In addition, several people who Muhammad has met with in recent weeks called him on Saturday too, including Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter.
The phone calls, he said, were a nuisance. But everything else, “showing up at family’s houses, agents, not just police, trying to label us as Antifa. That’s what I took as harassment.”
Muhammad said he sees Antifa as a movement and ideology, not an organization.
“No, we are not Antifa,” he said. “We are not an Antifa organization but we do not support fascism. We are anti-fascist.”
Muhammad believes his phone has been tapped because of several unexplained hang-ups and other phone issues, as well as police seeming to know details that were only shared through calls and texts. He’s not sure why he’s being targeted.
“I don’t know. No idea,” said Muhammad.
Through it all Muhammad has remained even-keeled, even as he knows other friends and witnesses have a different reaction.
“It spooked a lot of people,” he said. “I can’t really get emotional about it because if you do, then you lose your level-headedness.”
Still, about his recent treatment, “it’s definitely harassment. They followed us all while we’re on Mass Ave, followed us from Mass Ave, and then showed up at the house and said they weren’t leaving until they spoke to me. That’s blatant harassment.”
Muhammad declined to say what his next plan is beyond giving supporters a little time to recuperate.
On Friday, he and four other board members formed a nonprofit called Free The People to educate people, especially veterans, about systemic racism and advocate for change.
Indiana State Police did not answer News 8’s request for comment.
IMPD provided this statement:
“IMPD did not tap Mr. Muhammad’s phone. IMPD has, however, been in mutual communication with him since the beginning of June, including an in-person meeting between Mr. Muhammad and Chief Taylor. The department has spoken with Mr. Muhammad as recently as this past weekend. IMPD is always seeking to work directly with organizers of planned events of all kinds that take place across our city. We will continue to ensure the right to peacefully protest is preserved, as well as the safety of the community. “
– Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department