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Fairness Campaign Cuts Ties With Fischer Over Response To Protests, Police Violence

Mayor Greg Fischer spoke by the Big Four Bridge Sunday morning
Mayor Greg Fischer spoke by the Big Four Bridge Sunday morning

After endorsing Mayor Greg Fischer in three back-to-back general elections, the Fairness Campaign and its political action committee are repudiating the term-limited Democrat.

In a public letter published Friday and approved by the nonprofit's staff and board, the organization said it "deeply regretted" its support for Fischer. The group fights for LGBTQ rights and against systemic racism.

"Silence and inaction are unacceptable and make you complicit," the letter said.

Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign, said the letter was inspired by what he called an "abysmal" response to the police violence that led to Breonna Taylor's death as well as police aggression toward peaceful protesters over the last week.

Taylor was killed by police during a middle-of-the night raid in March related to a drug investigation focused on a different person.

"From top to bottom, everything that's been going on is just unfathomable," Hartman said. "There's no remorse that we've seen on the part of the mayor for the way that all of this has been handled. It's one of the very few times that I've been ashamed to call Louisville my home."

He criticized recent decisions, such as the citywide curfew that went into effect on Saturday. If that curfew were not in place, David McAtee would still be alive, Hartman said. McAtee died Sunday, killed by bullets from police and the National Guard, who were in the area of his restaurant to break up an after-curfew crowd that was socializing.

Although Fischer has been criticized as "anti-Black" in the past for policy positions including his support of anti gang-violence bills, Hartman said people in his organization were fed up after being "gassed" for consecutive days while protesting peacefully.

"If a city will not even respect the basic rights of its peaceful protesters, how can we expect them to do anything else at all?" he said.

On Sunday, Fischer commented on the use of pepper balls, tear gas and other crowd dispersal tactics used since the first night of protests on May 28.

"If anybody got caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time, with the wrong use of force, I apologize for that," Fischer said.

The Fairness Campaign also joined the chorus of voices calling for a ban on no-knock warrants. Louisville's Metro Council is considering an ordinance to limit rather than ban such warrants. State lawmakers are also discussing how to change the laws regulating these warrants.

Hartman said he couldn't think of anything Fischer could do to regain the organization's trust and support, though that would be a conversation with the board.

"I am deeply committed to the mission of the Fairness Campaign and will fight for that mission throughout my time in office and after," Fischer said in a statement shared by his office.

The Committee for Fairness and Individual Rights, the Fairness Campaign's political action committee, will consider this experience in future endorsements, Hartman said.

"The city could have responded in a way that embraced our communities of color and did not glorify police violence and abuse," but that's not what it did, he said.

Hartman said the group intends to add questions to its candidate questionnaire about police violence from now on.

Amina Elahi is LPM's City Editor. Email Amina at aelahi@lpm.org.