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Louisville Protesters Seek Forum On Policing, Breonna Taylor Memorial

Louisville activist Rhonda Mathies speaks at a news conference on May 5, 2021.

Protest leaders are calling for Mayor Greg Fischer and LMPD Chief Erika Shields to hold a community meeting to address concerns about aggressive policing and how Breonna Taylor should be memorialized in Jefferson Square Park.

Several protestors held a news conference Wednesday afternoon to call for the forum. The request comes three months after a similar community meeting ended in shouting.

Rhonda Mathies, a veteran Louisville activist, said the city’s promises to reform the police department have fallen flat for years, citing the violent arrest of Dee Garrett during a protest last month.

“We are still seeing police brutality, and the mayor is not doing anything,” Mathies said. “We have not seen any victories, we have not seen any arrests, we have not seen any justice. Justice is not in this town."

Louisville has a long history of police killings of Black people, and an audit of the department earlier this year showed that city police disproportionately encounter, arrest and ticket Black people.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a sweeping investigation into the city and its police department last month, including whether the department routinely uses excessive force and violates constitutional rights of citizens.

Federal investigators are asking community members to share their experiences.

The city has implemented some reforms, including a ban on no-knock search warrants, the creation of acivilian review board to monitor the police department, and the firing of former LMPD Police Chief Steve Conrad.

Shameka Parrish-Wright, a community organizer who is running for mayor next year, said the changes don’t go far enough, calling for the city to end LMPD’s qualified immunity protections.

“We all agree that LMPD is guilty of aggressiveness, of over-policing our communities, of over-arresting, of using the judicial system to further bully the protesters,” Parrish-Wright said.

Protesters mentioned a wide range of topics they would like to discuss with Fischer and Shields.

Andrea Anderson said she wants the city to stop making protesters take down art installations every day.

“Don’t throw it in the dumpster because we left it out here overnight. You don’t want people to see why it’s out here because you murdered and slayed a young lady,” Anderson said.

“This is a reminder of what the city did to Breonna Taylor. You need to see it, every day.”

The group also takes issue with the city’s plan to install a marker memorializing Taylor in Jefferson Square, the hub of demonstrations over the past year, saying protest leaders weren’t asked to weigh in on what to include on it.

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