Anger, tears for protesters seeking justice for Taylor

Anger, tears for protesters seeking justice for Taylor

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Angry, confused and shedding tears, demonstrators who spent months calling for justice in the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor resumed their protests Wednesday after prosecutors announced a single officer had been indicted — but not on charges involving the Black woman’s death.

The protests, which rekindled as soon as news of the grand jury’s decision broke Wednesday afternoon, appeared to be largely peaceful. Still, streets in downtown Louisville were cleared of cars and many businesses were boarded up well ahead of the announcement.

As the afternoon wore on, police in protective gear clashed with the growing number of protesters in some areas and used batons to push some of them down. Officers detained at least four people, who sat on the ground with their wrists bound behind them. As television cameras broadcast the scene live, a protester pointed at an officer and shouted: “Say her name!” An Associated Press reporter saw National Guard members and armoured military vehicles in downtown Louisville.

“Yes, it’s a bit extreme right now,” said Dekevion Gause, who sat beside a park memorial to Taylor made of flowers, paintings, and tiny grave markers representing Black people killed by police. “But it’s a volcano built up and now it’s exploded.”

Gause said all of the officers involved in the March 13 raid on Taylor’s home should have been charged with manslaughter.

“It’s kind of a slap in the face,” he said of the grand jury’s decision.

Gause gathered with dozens in Jefferson Square Park, dubbed “Injustice Square” by protesters who made it their impromptu hub during months of demonstrations. People huddled around a single speaker Wednesday to listen as prosecutors announced that fired police officer Brett Hankinson had been charged with wanton endangerment for firing into the homes of Taylor’s neighbours.

A grand jury brought no charges for killing Taylor, who was shot multiple times by police who burst into her home March 13 during a drug raid gone wrong. While there were no drugs in Taylor’s apartment, her boyfriend shot and wounded a police officer. State Attorney General Daniel Cameron said the officers’ shots that killed Taylor were fired in self-defence.

Upon hearing the news, many gathered in the square began to cry, expressing confusion and sorrow. Others exclaimed they had seen this coming.

“We know that this means that this is the next level of our protest, “ said Shameka Parrish Wright, who joined the protests Wednesday. “We got work to do, we got to get Breonna’s law passed.”

She was referring to a push for a state law to ban so-called “no-knock” search warrants like the one police had when they went to Taylor’s home.

Within minutes of the announcement, about 100 demonstrators marched from Jefferson Square along the downtown thoroughfare of Sixth Street chanting: “No justice, no peace!”

Many simply sat or stood in stunned silence after hearing the grand jury’s decision.

Jefferson Square became the epicenter of Louisville residents’ outrage over the killing of Taylor, who became a national symbol of racial injustice much like George Floyd, the Black man who died under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer.

Cameron, a Republican and Kentucky’s first Black attorney general, insisted prosecutors had followed the law even though “my heart breaks for Miss Taylor.”

“Criminal law is not meant to respond to every sorrow and grief,” Cameron said after the charges were announced.

Piper Hudspeth Blackburn, The Associated Press

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