The Bloomingtonian

The Stain on America

May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: Ben Jafari cleans up blood where a man was shot and killed hours before in Indianapolis the morning after riots in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)

By Mary Claire Molloy – Special to The Bloomingtonian

A previous version of this story has been updated.

INDIANAPOLIS — He knelt in the back alley, one hand steadying, the other scrubbing. As he worked, the bristles of the plastic brush turned red. 

Blood washed down Vermont Street, mingling with a puddle by the yellow curb. The stain left in the alley was the most stubborn. 

It was the stain of two nights of rioting and police confrontation that overshadowed daytime peaceful protests. It was the stain of one of two killings Saturday night in Indianapolis, both by bullets. There were flames in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, New York City. People died in St. Louis, Chicago and here on this patch of concrete downtown.

Ben Jafari didn’t know whose blood he was scrubbing, or whether the person was black or white. He knew George Floyd had died at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis, the economy had left millions of people out of work, 100,000 people were dead from COVID-19, and the country was a tinderbox. 

Jafari, who lived a few blocks away, didn’t know who was supposed to clean up the mess. On a Sunday morning in a week where it felt like the world was erupting and it was hard to say or do anything to make it better, he figured he could do this much. 

“Somebody had to,” he said.

***

Only later would Jafari learn that the blood had come from Chris Beaty, someone he knew. It didn’t matter to him then who it was, he would have done it for anyone.

Jafari, 36, was a real estate developer and the managing partner of the nearby Colonial Apartments. He did not consider himself a political person, but he had marched in the peaceful protest downtown Saturday afternoon. He’d never cleaned up after a death before.

“So, he got shot over there,” Jafari said, pointing to Talbot and Vermont Streets. He traced the blood, which spread across the alley for at least 40 feet, and gave his best hypothesis. 

“Then he ran here, wounded, and must’ve circled back,” he said, eyes following the red splotches as they increased in size.The metallic smell was overpowering, and the flies were buzzing. 

“He must’ve died here,” Jafari said, pointing to the biggest stain at his feet.

“I really don’t know what to say.” 

***

The Circle City was waking up. The morning sunshine tinted the destruction golden. The shards of shattered windows winked in the light. 

Jafari scrubbed. 

People, mostly white, were out on Massachusetts Avenue getting their Starbucks fixes and ordering Sunday brunch. A woman, pointing at her menu, said, “Oh, maybe hash browns? Let’s do that!”

Graffitied buildings declared, “I can’t breathe.”  

Jafari scrubbed.

Further down on Massachusetts, a couple held hands with their little boy and little girl, the daughter’s pink dress a splash of color against the plywood that covered the windows of a looted Walgreens. 

In the alley, a discarded protest sign demanded justice for George, Breonna, Ahmaud, Philando, Sandra.

Jafari was still scrubbing.

“I wipe it down, ” he said, pouring more ammonia. “But it never goes away.”

*** 

Death was not familiar to Jafari. He’d only ever been to a single funeral. He typed “How to clean up blood” into Google. The internet suggested bleach. The grocery store down the street didn’t have any. The coronavirus pandemic had depleted the shelves. 

The next best and available option was ammonia. Jafari made his way back to the crime scene with two bottles and the plastic brush, along with a broom. 

“I felt like it was my duty to clean it,” he said. “Out of respect for the victim, out of respect for the city and the people.” 

He didn’t think twice about it, he said. The realization would hit him later — he was cleaning up what had spilled from somebody’s son, who nine hours earlier, had been alive, right here. It’s one thing to see the violence on TV, another to hear it in your own neighborhood, and something else altogether to kneel in someone else’s blood.

 “George Floyd can’t happen again,” he said. “We’re all just trying to put things back together.”

When he gathered his things to go home, the stain was lighter, but still there. He looked down and saw that he’d carried the dead man’s blood home with him, on his shoes. 

***

That Sunday night, he got a text from the property manager at Colonial Apartments. A tenant was missing. 

Jafari, lying in bed, read the unit number and knew, right away, who it was.

Chris Beaty, 38, was an IU football player and one of the program’s most supportive alums. In Indianapolis, he became a well-known business leader and entrepreneur. He and Jafari had attended IU at the same time. Jafari had been to plenty of football games, so he probably saw Beaty play, but they never crossed paths until later. They met at an Indianapolis nightclub and learned how many friends they shared. Beaty had a huge smile and a million friends, and Jafari became one of them.

Whenever they saw each other, they’d greet with a shake up, asking about each other’s lives, family, work. 

“Hey, what’s good, Brother?”

Jafari teared up. The stain he’d been cleaning was not the blood of a stranger, and he could not leave a drop of it in the street.

He set out Monday at 7 a.m. 

He returned to the grocery store and bought a heavy duty brush with thicker bristles. He picked up a bouquet of daisies. He knelt again beside the stubborn stain. 

He started to scrub.

May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: The face of “Industry” is painted black by vandals at the Birch Bayh Federal Building the morning after riots in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: The remains of where a molotov cocktail burned on the steps of the Federal building the morning after riots in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: A worker removes graffiti on a building the morning after riots in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: A man cleans up shattered windows in downtown Indianapolis the morning after riots in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. A man was shot and killed in an alley just steps away. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: Billy Plonko pours glass from shattered windows into a dumpster in downtown Indianapolis the morning after riots in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. A man was shot and killed in an alley just steps away. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: A sign is left behind in an alley near the location where a man was shot and killed during riots in downtown Indianapolis in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: Anti police graffiti is left next to a mural of retired Indianapolis Pacers basketball player Reggie Miller in Indianapolis the morning after riots in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: Pedestrians practice social distancing near a Starbucks on Massachusetts Avenue the morning after riots in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: A family passes a boarded up Walgreens in downtown Indianapolis the morning after riots in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: A worker passes boarded up buildings in downtown Indianapolis the morning after riots in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: A group of woman look for businesses to help while volunteering to sweep up glass in downtown Indianapolis the morning after riots in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: Pam Jones spontaneously prays with a man experiencing homelessness in downtown Indianapolis the morning after riots in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Jones had been helping cleanup after the riots. “I just want to love people,” said Jones. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: A man helps push another man (in a wheel chair) who is holding a “Black Lives Matter” sign the morning after riots in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: Graffiti covers a building in downtown Indianapolis the morning after riots in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: Windows are smashed in a building in downtown Indianapolis the morning after riots in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: A man spray paints over graffiti reading, “We Can’t Breathe,” in downtown Indianapolis the morning after riots in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: Windows are smashed at First Financial bank offering a view inside in downtown Indianapolis the morning after riots in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: A worker boards up a Bank of America branch in downtown Indianapolis the morning after riots in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: A bail bondsman put a sign reading, “Justice for George Floyd,” and didn’t have his windows smashed in downtown Indiana the morning after riots in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: A police officer makes a report in downtown Indianapolis the morning after riots in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: Pedestrians walk past smashed windows in the Salesforce building in downtown Indianapolis the morning after riots in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: Christopher Saxon, an Afghanistan veteran who suffers from PTSD, tries to clean graffiti off the war memorial in downtown Indianapolis the morning after riots in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Saxon said he served with Golf Company, 1st Platoon, of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, in Afghanistan during 2012, and is 100-percent disabled for PTSD. Saxon said he got anxiety just going to the memorial but said, “I fought for people’s rights, and freedom of speech.” Saxon called the police who killed George Lloyd, “garbage people,” but said not all police are bad. He said he felt the graffiti on the war memorial dishonored the veterans who died for the county, and that some of them honored by the monument had also been people of color. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: Graffiti and blood on the war memorial in downtown Indianapolis the morning after riots in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: Graffiti covers the war memorial on the circle in downtown Indianapolis the morning after riots in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: The looted TJMAXX seen through a door in downtown Indianapolis the morning after riots in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: Graffiti covers a restaurant in downtown Indianapolis the morning after riots in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: A posters asking for donations for George Floyd’s family is next to a photo of Oscar, SAG, and Golden Globe award winning actor Octavia Spencer playing Madam CJ Walker on television at a bus station in downtown Indianapolis the morning after an uprising in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. CJ Walker was a businesswoman who became the first female millionaire in America. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: Graffiti covers a building in downtown Indianapolis the morning after riots in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: A worker cleans up glass at the Bank of Indianapolis the morning after riots in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: A sign reads, Want Power? Join a Union, inside the musicians union local building, which was vandalized, in downtown Indianapolis the morning after riots in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Rioters tried to burn the union building down. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
May 31, 2020 – Indianapolis, Indiana USA: A hole is smashed through glass at a bus stop the morning after riots in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sean Reed in Indianapolis; Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)

Rate this post

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 4 / 5. Vote count: 48

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Bloomingtonian on Patreon!