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Louisville Leaders Talk ‘Balancing’ Protests, Downtown Businesses

Ari O'Neal leading protesters after she was arrested and released from Louisville Metro Corrections.
Ari O'Neal leading protesters after she was arrested and released from Louisville Metro Corrections.

Louisville business leaders expressed worries over ongoing racial justice protests in the city’s downtown during a forum on Wednesday, while an incoming elected official says that protesters are being characterized as “wild animals.”

The city has experienced 76 consecutive days of protests as demonstrators call for the police officers involved in the killing of Breonna Taylor to be held responsible for her death.

Sarah Davasher-Wisdom is the president of Greater Louisville Inc., the city’s chamber of commerce. During a discussion hosted by the Louisville Forum, she said that businesses are worried about an escalation of protests and vandalism once Attorney General Daniel Cameron releases his investigation into Taylor’s death.

“We have to keep working on these long-term issues, but we also have to allow for free commerce, and that includes respecting law and order,” Davasher-Wisdom said.

“We’re in a delicate balance, we all know that. But it’s important that we continue working on both of these issues.”

Over the last week, Louisville Metro Police announced that they would no longer allow people to demonstrate using caravans and protesters will be banned from occupying streets and blocking traffic.

Police said the change came after an increase in “aggressive behavior” from protesters.

Jecorey Arthur, the Democratic nominee for the city’s 4th metro council district, said that the protests are the result of hundreds of years of racist policies.

“There is this ongoing narrative that the protesters are wild animals. I’m here as one of the protesters to say that’s not the case,” Arthur said.

“These protesters are mothers, students, citizens of the city that we all love. But the issue is the city hasn’t always loved us back.”

Arthur said that businesses need to work directly with protesters to address their grievances.

“You all cannot be apolitical. You cannot just sit back and be scared and fearful or cry and complain about the protests, you need to go out of your way to advocate for policy.”

Attorney General Daniel Cameron has been investigating whether the actions of officers involved in Taylor’s death warrant criminal charges since June.

He has repeatedly said that the investigation is ongoing and has not provided a timeline for its completion. The FBI is conducting its own investigation.