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Louisville Protesters, 'Devastated' By Breonna Taylor Case Outcome, Take To Streets

092320_Jefferson Square 1
Jared Bennett
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Protesters gather in Jefferson Square Park in downtown Louisville ahead of the announcement of the a grand jury's decision about the Breonna Taylor case.

Protesters gathered downtown and then began marching through Louisville neighborhoods in the wake of the news Wednesday that a grand jury will indict only one of the three officers involved in the fatal March police shooting of Breonna Taylor.

Chad Lo was one of those who gathered at Jefferson Square, which has become known as Breonna Taylor or Injustice Square to many involved with the protests in Louisville.

Speaking before the announcement, Lo said the country is at a point in history where people need to decide where they stand.

“At this point, you’re either on the right side, you’re complacent, or you’re on the wrong side really.

Lo was arrested on August 25 while taking part in “Good Trouble Tuesday.” He is waiting for a court date in November but says showing up on days like this is worth the trouble.

 

When Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Annie O'Connell announcedthe grand jury's decision at 1:15 p.m., demonstrators played her words over a loudspeaker for the square to hear.

The judge said the grand jury ruled that former LMPD officer Brett Hankison will be charged with three counts of wanton endangerment for endangering neighbors in another apartment on the night of March 13.

None of the counts are for firing into Taylor’s apartment, or directly linked to her death.

The announcement brought immediate displays of grief and anger.

Louisville-based poet and activist Hannah Drake said she was not surprised by the grand jury’s decision, but the announcement was still painful for her as a Black woman.

“It's just another reminder. That, as a Black woman, that my life does not matter to the city,” Drake said. “It’s just disappointing.”

Taylor's sister, Juniyah Palmer, shared a simple message on Twitter.

“I am sorry sister,” she said.

In a press conference shortly after, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said his investigation had determined that the other two officers involved — Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Det. Myles Cosgrove — were justified when they fired into Taylor's apartment, killing Taylor. The officers were executing a warrant; when they entered the apartment they were shot at by Kenneth Walker, Taylor's boyfriend, and returned fire. Walker has said he was not aware they were law enforcement.

But the crowd gathered at Jefferson Square did not stay to hear Cameron’s press conference, as they began marching shortly after the charges were announced. They marched past small contingents of LMPD officers stationed at intersections such as 4th Street and Broadway.

As she marched, Fontelo Tyson of Louisville said she was “devastated, but pleased we got one [officer].” Tyson had been demonstrating all summer, whenever she found time between her two jobs.

“This is not about color,” she said. “It’s about injustice and inequality.”

She hopes the counts against Hankison will at least give other officers pause before using force, “that they won't be so quick to take another life. And this is just the beginning.”

The demonstrators passed through neighborhoods in the Highlands and Shelby Park chanting, "Get out of your house and into the street!"

They made their way to Bardstown Road. Organizers had earlier called for the day’s demonstrations to be non-violent, but disruptive. When some demonstrators began banging windows and turning over tables at The Joy Luck restaurant, others in the crowd intervened.

A few blocks later, the marchers met with a line of LMPD officers in riot gear.

Protesters confronted the officers and chanted “Why are you in riot gear? I don’t see no riot here.”

 

More LMPD officers arrived as tensions heightened. Pushing and shoving broke out between officers and protesters and LMPD arrested 13 people, in addition to another 16 people who were arrested downtown.

LMPD pushed the crowd onto the sidewalk and secured the scene. With the air stinging from pepper balls fired by officers, many protesters began walking back towards downtown.

Nicole Williams, a protester and co-organizer of the Say Her Name Bike Ride, said she plans to be out in the streets Thursday as well.

“And the next day, however many days I will be here,” Williams said. “No justice, no peace, and there's still no justice. And until there's justice, there will be no peace, period.”

This story has been updated.

Jared Bennett is an investigative reporter and deputy editor for LPM. Email Jared at jbennett@lpm.org.