‘I have no faith in the legal system.’ Breonna Taylor’s mother attends emotional protest
In a somber and at times rousing gathering Friday, family members of Breonna Taylor, as well as their attorneys, castigated a justice system in which no criminal charges will be brought against police for shooting and killing the 26-year-old Black woman six months ago inside her own apartment.
“What kind of sham grand jury proceeding was this?” Benjamin Crump, the family’s attorney, said from a park in downtown Louisville, Ky., which has been the main staging area for protests here.
Crump, flanked by Taylor’s mother, called on Kentucky Atty. Gen. Daniel Cameron to make public all documents pertaining to the investigation of the March 13 incident, in which Louisville police officers stormed into Taylor’s apartment with a “no knock” warrant and fired multiple times after her boyfriend, who did not know who was entering the home, shot and wounded one of the officers.
“Say her name!” Crump yelled.
“Breonna Taylor!” protesters shouted back, their voices echoing off the canyon of buildings surrounding the park.
Crump, calling Taylor’s death a form of “police terrorism,” predicted that the city would continue to be gripped in unrest in the months ahead. Both Crump and another family attorney, Lonita Baker, have said a special investigator needs to be appointed to assess the case.
“There seems to be two justice systems in America: one for Black America, and one for white America,” Crump said, before leading the crowd in chants of “Release the transcripts.”
“You can’t pawn this off on the grand jury if your office made that decision,” Baker said of Cameron. “Don’t tell us that the grand jury made this determination if it was truly your determination.”
Officials from the FBI are investigating whether police violated Taylor’s civil rights, but there is no timetable on when a determination will be made.
Taylor’s aunt Bianca Austin read a statement on behalf of Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, who was too emotional to speak.
“I was reassured Wednesday of why I have no faith in the legal system,” the statement said. “The police and law were not made to protect us Black and brown women. I knew Daniel Cameron would never do his job. The system as a whole has failed Breonna.”
Earlier this week, Cameron announced that police officers would not be charged in Taylor’s death, spawning protests in Louisville and elsewhere in the country.
For more than 100 days, protesters have gathered in Jefferson Square Park, demanding justice for Taylor.
On Friday, streets around the downtown area remained barricaded and businesses shuttered as hundreds of people gathered, some holding signs that read “Say her name” and “A Black woman’s life matters.”
Some came alone; others were in groups: a city bus driver on break, parents with children, groups of college friends.
“Every weekend for the past month we have come here to pray, to find answers, and we need truth, and that’s not what we are getting,” Candice Conner, who arrived with her three children and sister, said Friday evening. “Breonna looked like me. Does my life matter? Her life did.”
Jamar Reason came alone. He lives a few blocks from downtown and rode his bicycle to the gathering. He has tried to come to protests for a few hours at least once a week.
“Before this week, there was hope,” he said. “That’s gone somewhat, but we can still march, still make the leaders of this city remain on edge ... and see us.”
Helicopters buzzed overhead. National Guard Humvees were stationed on a nearby corner, guardsmen gripping rifles. Some protesters also openly carried firearms, their legal right in this city tucked along the banks of the Ohio River.
A 9 p.m. curfew remains in effect throughout the weekend. At nightfall, some protesters have pushed back on the curfew, leading to tensions with police.
The protests have been mainly peaceful, with small marches across the city during the daytime hours. But on Wednesday night, following the grand jury announcement, two police officers were shot. One of the officers has been released from the hospital; the other is in stable condition. Larynzo Johnson, 26, has been charged in the shootings.
The next night, state Rep. Attica Scott, a Louisville Democrat, was arrested minutes before the curfew started. She was with a group of protesters marching toward a church that, like many around the city, has become a safe house of sorts.
Nationwide, police officers who kill unarmed Black people often are not charged, but Dallas County appears to be an outlier.
At the news conference Friday, Crump, who has represented dozens of families of unarmed Black people shot by police across the nation, was joined by several of those relatives.
Michael Brown Sr., whose son Michael Brown was killed in 2014 in Ferguson, Mo., stood near Taylor’s mother. So did Jacob Blake Sr., whose son Jacob was shot by police multiple times in the back last month in Kenosha, Wis., leading to unrest nationwide. Jacob Blake survived, but he remains unable to walk.
“I had to be here with this fraternity,” Blake said. “We did not choose this fraternity — this fraternity chose us.”
As the march began making its way through downtown Friday evening, a man on a megaphone, like an emcee, began to preach to the protesters.
“What do we want?” he yelled.
“Justice!” the crowd shouted.
“When do we want it?”
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