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A Year After Breonna Taylor's Death, Protesters' Demands Remain

Protesters march in Louisville on March 13, 2021, to mark one year after police killed Breonna Taylor.
J. Tyler Franklin
Protesters march in Louisville on March 13, 2021, to mark one year after police killed Breonna Taylor.

A year after LMPD officers killed Breonna Taylor, the chants downtown remain the same: “Arrest, convict, send those killer cops to jail. The whole damn system is guilty as hell!”

On Saturday afternoon into the evening, family members, lawyers, activists and supporters filled Jefferson Square Park — also known as Breonna Square or Injustice Square. Their message, too, is similar to a year ago. They want elected leaders to hold the officers who shot and killed Taylor accountable, and they want to make sure what happened to her never happens again

The rally and march through downtown drew hundreds of participants, who weaved throughbarricades set up by the city to control traffic around the square.

Copelyn Short, 17, marched with her mother and hundreds of other protesters down Ninth Street. She’s frustrated that protesters’ demands for accountability have still not been met.

“It’s pitiful,” she said.

“It starts at the top,” her mother Felisha Short said. “The city leaders, the state leaders, [Kentucky Attorney General] Daniel Cameron — no one took action when action should have been taken.”

Taylor died on March 13, 2020, shot by Louisville Metro Police who forced their way into her apartment after midnight. They sought evidence against a narcotics suspect Taylor previously dated, but investigators subsequently found no drugs or cash in her home.

When they broke down Taylor’s door shortly before 1 a.m., her boyfriend Kenneth Walker fired once, thinking they were intruders. Police fired back 32 times, striking Taylor repeatedly and killing her in her hallway.

Cameron, the attorney general, led an investigation into Taylor’s killing last year. A grand jury later indicted just one of the officers involved in the raid that ended in Taylor’s death:Brett Hankison, for wanton endangerment of Taylor’s neighbors.

He and two other officers were fired for their actions related to the case. None were charged for killing her. All three officers are appealing to be reinstated.

At the rally early Saturday afternoon, lawyers, activists and other community leaders called for more accountability. 

The FBI continues to investigate the shooting and circumstances surrounding it. On Friday, state Rep. Attica Scott and other lawmakers called on the new U.S. Attorney General, Merrick Garland, to investigate as well.

Taylor's boyfriend Walker, who acknowledged he does not often speak publicly, took the microphone to address the gathered crowd. Earlier this week, a judge permanently dismissed charges he faced, of first-degree assault and attempted murder of a police officer.

“I say that’s a nice start, but that’s not where we finish,” Walker said. “We gotta keep going.”

Some protesters criticized Gov. Andy Beshear for not speaking out more against police violence and what happened to Taylor.

“I like him personally, but there is such a thing as being silent.” Chris Brown said, who came in from Elsmere, near Cincinnati, for the march. “If you are silent, you are complicit.”

Protesters marched through downtown past small groups of police officers wearing their regular patrol uniforms, and not the riot gear officers have armored themselves with at past protests.

It was not lost on protester Adriana Badie that she took to the streets days after the state senate passed a Republican bill that would criminalize insulting a police officer and broaden the definition of “rioting.”

“That’s kind of like a slap in our face,” said Badie, a student at the University of Louisville.

Badie said the bill, SB 211, “fueled the fire” for some people, and spurred them to action.

Others were worried the measure, if passed, would keep away would-be protesters who would be concerned about legal consequences.

“People aren’t trying to ruin their lives out here,” protester Adrian “Streets” Taylor said. He has been arrested twice on protest-related charges.

Badie said she plans to continue coming to protests this year, and thinks Saturday’s action could re-energize the movement. Asked if, after a year of largely unmet demands, she thinks protesters are facing too much collective fatigue to keep up the momentum, Badie said people are tired, but not of protesting.

“I think people are just tired about waking up and feeling unsafe,” she said. “I’m never going to be tired of fighting for my people.”

Ryan Van Velzer contributed to this story.

This story has been updated.

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

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