Breonna Taylor grand jury decision spurs NYC protests

September 24, 2020 Piper Hudspeth Blackburn Associated Press
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Demonstrators gathered in Downtown Brooklyn Wednesday night to protest a Kentucky grand jury’s decision not to indict any police officers for the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor.

Chanting “Say her name, Breonna Taylor,” the crowd then started marching in the street, past onlookers and honking cars. They were accompanied by musicians, setting a steady drum beat.

The grand jury indicted one Louisville officer in connection to the March 13 killing, but for shooting into a home next to Taylor’s that had her white neighbors inside. No charges were brought against the two officers who fired their weapons at Taylor, in her home, killing her.

Taylor, an emergency medical worker, was shot multiple times by the white officers who entered her home on a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation. The warrant used to search her home was connected to a suspect who did not live there, and no drugs were found inside.

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Prosecutors said they were justified in using force to protect themselves after they were shot at by Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker. Walker later said the couple heard a loud banging at the door and that he suspected the intruder might be Taylor’s ex-boyfriend. He fired his gun once, wounding one of the officers in the thigh.

Protesters marched across the Manhattan Bridge on Wednesday. Photo: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AP

Angry, confused and shedding tears, demonstrators who spent months calling for justice in the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor resumed their protests Wednesday after the grand jury’s decision.

In Brooklyn, hundreds of protesters gathered at Barclays Center. In Manhattan, protesters walked around the Trump Tower. The protests appeared to be largely peaceful, and police reported no arrests.

In Louisville, police said two officers had been shot as of Wednesday night and a suspect was in custody. Interim Louisville Police Chief Robert Schroeder did not offer details about whether the suspect was participating in the demonstrations. He said both officers were expected to recover, and one was undergoing surgery.

During the Louisville protests, officers detained several people. In one instance, four people were seen sitting on the ground with their wrists bound behind them. As television cameras broadcast the scene live, a protester pointed at an officer and shouted: “Say her name!”

An Associated Press reporter saw National Guard members and armored military vehicles in downtown Louisville. At one point Wednesday night, police in riot gear fired flash bangs and formed a line at Jefferson Square, which has been at the center of protests. The square had largely cleared out ahead of a nighttime curfew as demonstrators marched through other parts of downtown Louisville.

People approached NYPD officers during protests on Wednesday. Photo: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AP

“It’s a volcano built up and now it’s exploded,” said Dekevion Gause, who sat beside a Louisville park memorial to Taylor made of flowers, paintings, and tiny grave markers representing Black people killed by police.

Gause said all of the officers involved in the March 13 raid on Taylor’s home should have been charged with manslaughter.

“It’s kind of a slap in the face,” he said of the grand jury’s decision.

Gause gathered with dozens in Jefferson Square Park, dubbed “Injustice Square” by protesters who made it their impromptu hub during months of demonstrations. People huddled around a single speaker Wednesday to listen as prosecutors announced that fired police officer Brett Hankinson had been charged with wanton endangerment for firing into a home next to Taylor’s.

Upon hearing the news, many gathered in the square began to cry, expressing confusion and sorrow. Others exclaimed they had seen this coming.

“We know that this means that this is the next level of our protest,” said Shameka Parrish Wright, who joined the protests Wednesday. “We got work to do, we got to get Breonna’s law passed.”

NYPD officers watched demonstrators on Wednesday in New York. Photo: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AP

She was referring to a push for a state law to ban so-called “no-knock” search warrants like the one police had when they went to Taylor’s home.

Within minutes of the announcement, about 100 demonstrators marched from Jefferson Square along the downtown thoroughfare of Sixth Street chanting: “No justice, no peace!”

Jefferson Square became the epicenter of Louisville residents’ outrage over the killing of Taylor, who became a national symbol of racial injustice much like George Floyd, the Black man who died under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer.

Cameron, a Republican and Kentucky’s first Black attorney general, insisted prosecutors had followed the law even though “my heart breaks for Miss Taylor.”

“Criminal law is not meant to respond to every sorrow and grief,” Cameron said after the charges were announced.

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