Support For Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer Wanes As Protests Continue
It’s the first Sunday of June, and a group of young adults are crowded in a conference room in Metro Hall. Some of them have spent days protesting police brutality and the killing of Breonna Taylor. Now, finally, they’re meeting with the mayor.
It’s not going well.
They have come for answers, but don’t seem satisfied with what Mayor Greg Fischer has to say. These young people start talking over each other, and him. They say these issues are ongoing, they’re pervasive, they need to be addressed now.
One woman’s voice cuts through.
“So this has been a continuous issue with you, Mayor Fischer. If you can't do your job, then you need to resign," she says.
Less than two years ago, Fischer, a Democrat, swept into a third term with more than 60 percent of the vote. He’s the mayor that brought the city back from the recession. The guy that revived downtown, and created a data-driven city of the future. He’s the incoming president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Fischer has not been universally beloved, but it’s safe to say that — in nearly a decade of running this city — he’s never faced criticism like he has in the last two weeks.
“Just the right thing to do in this moment would be to say, I am unable to serve the city of Louisville anymore," said State Rep. Attica Scott.
Scott represents the 41st District, which includes west Louisville, the majority-Black area of the city where she grew up and still lives. She's one of the people speaking out against Fischer.
Two weeks ago, she was among the peaceful protesters teargassed by Louisville Metro Police.
"It's not about you. It's about the people," she said. "And when the people are rejecting you, it's time for you to go."
Protesters Raise Concerns After 2 Police Killings
In the nearly three months since Taylor was killed in her home by Louisville Metro police, critics have called Fischer’s response too late and too weak. Protesters took to the streets two weeks ago, and on many nights since, the march has gone to his doorstep. In that time, criticism of the mayor has only grown, particularly after another black Louisvillian — David McAtee — was shot and killed by LMPD and National Guard on June 1.
On Wednesday, a state official said the bullet that killed McAtee came from a National Guard member, though two LMPD officers also fired on him at his barbecue restaurant at 26th Street and Broadway.
Scott, who serves the district where McAtee lived and worked, said the community has lost faith in its leader.
"I still struggle to find where there is a heaping amount of support remaining out there for him to continue serving as mayor," she said.
Last week, Fischer lost the support of the Fairness Campaign, which endorsed him in all three of his general elections. The issue has also emerged in the upcoming Senate Democratic primary: candidate Mike Broihier has called for Fischer to resign. His challengers, Amy McGrath and State Rep. Charles Booker, did not respond to request for comment on the issue.
But some, like Congressman John Yarmuth, a Democrat from Louisville, are still supporting the mayor. In a statement, Yarmuth said calls for Fischer’s resignation are unjustified. He pointed to the city’s investment in the West End, and said Fischer has been a strong leader for an inclusive and compassionate city.
Nationally, Fischer has earned the ire of celebrities and national civil rights figures who have told their social media followers to call and tell him to fire the officers involved in the Taylor case.
Quintez Brown is a 19-year-old organizer with Black Lives Matter. After Fischer said Wednesday that the city won't defund police and the community does not want that, Brown said it’s time for Fischer to go.
"His actions these past two weeks have shown that he is standing against the protesters, standing against the Louisville community and has sided with the police," he said.
Police Take Issue With Fischer, Too
But the police are also dissatisfied with Fischer. Last Wednesday, a group of LMPD officers walked out when Fischer visited during a roll call.
Ryan Nichols, president of the River City Fraternal Order of Police, said officers are upset that Fischer hasn’t corrected some misconceptions about LMPD’s role in the Taylor shooting. He said the union wouldn’t go so far as to call for his resignation, but the trust is broken.
“If he chose to resign, you know, we would support him in his retirement and wish him well. If he continues to serve as our mayor, we challenge him to do better," Nichols said.
The union's contract with the city is currently under negotiation.
But Nichols admits “doing better” means something very different to different groups right now.
Fischer, at least, thinks he’s still the right person for the job.
"Look, when I was elected for this job and swore the oath, I swore to do it during good times and bad times," he said during a press conference Wednesday. "So what's important now in Louisville and cities all over America, is there are plans to move forward."
What Would Happen?
If Fischer did decide to resign, his deputy mayor would step into the role temporarily, until Metro Council appointed someone to finish out the term. If they fail to select someone, the responsibility would fall to the governor.
Theoretically, Metro Council could impeach the mayor, but council leaders haven’t taken much of a stance on resignation — let alone anything more severe.
No matter what happens, the voters won’t weigh in on who's mayor until 2022.
For Stevon Edwards, those next steps are an important part of the equation. During a protest in Jeffersontown Sunday, she said she volunteered for Fischer’s campaigns and went to the election night parties.
And that makes the recent weeks hurt even more.
"I'm very disappointed as a Black woman, but also just as a citizen of Louisville, with the promises of compassion," she said. "This is not showing compassion."
But she said Fischer is just part of the problem.
"And so it is time for him to resign. At the same time, who was going to get to take his place?" she said. "We need to really think if you're demanding for the resignation, who else is going to step in and make those changes?"
The problems, Edwards said, are systemic. They weren’t created by one man — and they won’t be fixed entirely by removing him from office.
This story included reporting from Ryland Barton and Ryan Van Velzer.