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Volunteers, Including Protesters, Clean Up Downtown Louisville

Volunteer Lonnie McCray helped clean up downtown Louisville after protests left widespread damage to businesses.
Volunteer Lonnie McCray helped clean up downtown Louisville after protests left widespread damage to businesses.

Downtown Louisville has been transformed by three nights of protests over the police killing of Breonna Taylor. Protesters have caused thousands of dollars in damage to businesses, breaking windows and tagging walls with spray paint. Louisville Metro employees and many volunteers were working to clean up first thing Sunday morning.

"I love my city," volunteer Lonnie McCray said as she used paint remover and a rag to scrub graffiti from a transformer at Jefferson and Second streets. McCray was among a couple dozen volunteers organized by the Louisville Downtown Partnership.

Many were returning downtown after having participated in the protests themselves.

McCray, who is Black, wanted to participate in the protests, but she couldn’t risk getting coronavirus, since her mother is immune-compromised. Instead she dropped off supplies for protesters, and showed up here to clean up Sunday.

McCray said she's had personal experience with Louisville Metro Police Department growing up in Louisville.

"I want you to have a realization of what I look like, and who I am," she said.

She pulls down her face-mask to show two gold front teeth.

"Because that determines what happens when I get pulled over. Not how I sound. Not how intelligent I may be, not where I work, or what I do for a living, but what I look like."

McCray said something has to be done about what she called systemic racism in policing.

"I pray that there’s change. At this point when you hit rock bottom, you can’t do anything but change. And this is rock bottom," she said, and moved on to find more graffiti to scrub away.

Other volunteers were less sympathetic to the protesters.

"There's a lot of injustices out there, but the police, they've got a really hard job," volunteer Marcus Grady said. "None of this is OK. Destruction is not helping anybody."

Grady, who is in the ROTC program at the University of Louisville, said he came downtown Friday to observe the protests, but not to participate.

"I was just really upset by what I saw -- all the businesses being destroyed after coronavirus just crippled them, and this is the death blow to many people," he said.

Protests over police brutality began Thursday evening, and continued through the weekend. After a chaotic evening Friday night, Mayor Greg Fischer issued a 9 p.m. curfew and called in the National Guard for help in enforcing it. Officials said there was not widespread vandalism or looting on Saturday evening; about 40 people were arrested.

Jess Clark is LPMs Education and Learning Reporter. Email Jess at jclark@lpm.org.