Fischer Urges Protesters To 'Separate' From Lawbreakers Or Risk Arrest
The day after State Rep. Attica Scott was arrested on felony riot charges for being near people who committed destructive acts, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said protesters near anyone breaking the law could face arrest and should "separate" from such groups.
"Everyone has a First Amendment right to protest and do so peacefully and lawfully. And I want to stress that violence and destruction will not be tolerated," Fischer said during a news conference. "If you break windows, if you start fires, destroy property or attack anyone, including our officers, you will be arrested."
His comments came after police said they arrested two dozen people before midnight on Thursday. Louisville Metro Police Interim Chief Robert Schroeder said police declared the assembly unlawful before the 9 p.m. curfew because people vandalized property, including buses and the main branch of the Louisville Free Public Library.
Here's how LMPD describes state Rep. Attica Scott's arrest— Ryland Barton (@RylandKY) September 25, 2020
"Above subj was a part of a large group that was given mult order verbally to disperse and failed to do so. Subjects caused extensive damage at multiple locations including setting fire to the Louisville Public Library." pic.twitter.com/BC68Tbb8Tm
A WFPL reporter on the scene said she witnessed a minority of the more than 100 protesters engage in vandalism.
Asked how more than 100 people protesting peacefully should separate themselves from a handful of people who choose to engage in vandalism, Schroeder did not directly answer. He said Thursday night's protests included "possibly several hundred" people spanning a "period of space," so police would not arrest everyone in the crowd for riotous behavior.
"if you're in the immediate vicinity of those causing damage, please, separate yourself from those folks," he said.
Schroeder also said LMPD received reports on "members clad in military-style attire," at a downtown gas station who were out past curfew, yet not arrested. Black leaders including Louisville Urban League CEO and president Sadiqa Reynolds and Until Freedom activist Tamika Mallory alleged police treated "white militia" differently than protesters for racial justice Thursday night.
The police chief said they had permission to be on private property to act as security.
"As this was private property and they were not in the roadway, they were not in violation of the curfew," Schroeder said, adding it was "not dissimilar" to the activity at a Fourth Street Church Thursday night. Those who were arrested were walking to, but not yet on, the church's property.
In a letter Friday, the ACLU of Kentucky called on the Jefferson County Attorney to drop charges against those arrested near the church, and questioned the whether the curfew and its enforcement complied with individuals' Constitutional rights.
Citing ongoing investigations, Schroeder declined to explain whether there might have been a similar curfew exemption for West End barbecue chef David McAtee, who was killed by a National Guard member in June.
LMPD and National Guard approached McAtee's barbecue stand and began firing pepper balls. After people who had been in the parking lot streamed into the stand, McAtee fired a shot out the door. LMPD and National Guard both fired at McAtee in return, and he was shot in the chest in the doorway of his restaurant by the National Guard. Family members said he was living inside the restaurant.
His family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against police officers and Guard members this week.
Schroeder also announced that Maj. Bridget Hallahan has been relieved of her command of the Fifth Division following the public release of an email she sent in which she belittled members of the antifa and Black Lives Matter movements.
"Maj. Hallahan has accepted responsibility for her emails, and is retiring from the department effective October 1," Schroeder said.
Earlier this week, another email by an LMPD officer mocking protesters became public. That email was sent by Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly — one of the officers who shot Breonna Taylor and who is on administrative leave — shortly before a Kentucky grand jury indicted his former colleague Brett Hankison for alleged wanton endangerment of Taylor's neighbors.
"We are also aware of...the email by Sgt. Mattingly," Schroeder said. "That is something we are reviewing and determining course of action."