Anti-Gay Police Violence on Indianapolis' Monument Circle in the 1980s

In August 1984, Indianapolis gay news publication The Works ran a profile on David Molden, an openly gay nineteen-year-old man who experienced police harassment on Monument Circle. On his way home from work late at night on July 6, Molden was stopped by Indianapolis Police Department (IPD) officers, forced to provide identification, and then physically assaulted by an officer. Police implied that Molden was “trolling” on the Circle, a practice where individuals would solicit one another for sex, both paid and unpaid. This incident on Monument Circle, the public space surrounding the Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument at the intersection of Meridian and Market Streets, in the center of downtown Indianapolis, emblematized the confrontations between the Indianapolis Police and its gay and lesbian citizens during the 1980s. Molden’s experience was just one of several similar incidents in 1984 with at least twenty-three other allegations of harassment lodged with the Indiana Civil Liberties Union (ICLU) and documented by The Works. Multiple claims were made that the IPD violated individual’s civil rights by using videotaping as a method to deter gay interactions through public surveillance. The Circle served as both a heavily policed public space and a microcosm of the conflict between the city, police, and Indiana’s LGBT citizens.

The Indianapolis Gay/Lesbian Coalition (IGLC), a collection of leadership from the city’s gay and lesbian organizations, came together in the early 1980s to address the city leadership’s misinformation about the gay and lesbian community as well as the ongoing police violence. The group included folks like Stanley Berg, owner of The Body Works bathhouse and publisher of the gay and lesbian newspaper The Works, and Kathy Sarris, president of Justice, Inc. The IGLC met with Director of Public Safety Richard Blankenbaker and Mayor William Hudnut III multiple times to discuss the appointment of a gay or lesbian liaison with city government and procedures to establish equitable treatment from the IPD. Activists also staged the Gay Knights rallies in summer 1984 on Monument Circle in response to Molden and others’ plight. These protests caused the mayor’s office to define the city’s anti-discriminatory policy as applicable to the gay and lesbian community for the first time.



Monument Circle, Indianapolis, IN, 46204