A year after her death, protesters take to the streets to demand justice for Breonna Taylor
WASHINGTON, DC (ABC News) — From the White House to the streets of Kentucky, and in cities across the nation, Breonna Taylor’s name rang loud and clear to mark one year since she died in her own apartment when police unleashed a barrage of 32 shots.
In her hometown of Louisville, Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, joined hundreds of protesters in a march on Saturday to honor the 26-year-old Black emergency medical technician and renew calls to bring charges against the Louisville Metro Police Department officers involved in the March 13, 2020, shooting.
At the White House, President Joe Biden called on Congress to pass meaningful police reform in Taylor’s name.
“Breonna Taylor’s death was a tragedy, a blow to her family, her community, and America. As we continue to mourn her, we must press ahead to pass meaningful police reform in Congress,” Biden wrote in a tweet posted Saturday afternoon. “I remain committed to signing a landmark reform bill into law.”
Holding a banner bearing her daughter’s likeness, Palmer marched shoulder-to-shoulder with supporters to the city’s Jefferson Square Park, where hundreds of people gathered to say her daughter’s name and joined her in chants of “No justice, no peace!”
Late Saturday night, police in Lousiville declared one protest an illegal assembly when authorities said demonstrators blocked a roadway “forcing vehicles, while armed, to turn around.”
“We are deeming their actions as an Unlawful Assembly. Arrests will be made to those that refuse to disperse,” the Louisville Metro Police Department tweeted at 9:30 p.m. There was no immediate word on whether arrests were made.
The protest in Louisville and across the nation came just two days after Palmer and local activists gathered for a rally outside the office of Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine to ask him to prosecute the officers involved in Taylor’s death.
“Tom Wine you got a job to do that’s all we asking you to do,” Palmer said at the rally. “You’ve seen us stand, you’ve seen us gather, march, protest, cry… it’s crazy how long it’s been what you won’t see is us divide on what we want.”
A federal investigation into potential civil rights violations is underway and has been expanded to include the warrant that sent police to Taylor’s door, according to the Associated Press.
While Saturday’s protest in Louisville went late into the night and was mostly peaceful, protesters in Los Angeles clashed with police and demonstrators in New York City marched across the Brooklyn Bridge, halting traffic.
Dozens of protesters clashed with Los Angeles police officers wearing riot gear Saturday night in Hollywood. During a tense standoff near the Hollywood Walk of Fame, video obtained by ABC News showed two demonstrators climbing on the hood of a police car. As the vehicle sped away from the scene, the footage showed one of the protesters being flung on the pavement while the other clung to the hood as demonstrators gave chase on foot.
LAPD officials told ABC station KABC in Los Angeles that protesters threw rocks and bottles that left several officers with minor injuries. Officials said multiple businesses in the area were vandalized.
At one point, police deployed tear gas to disperse the crowd, LAPD officials said. On Sunday, the LAPD said 11 people were arrested, including five on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer, one for alleged battery on a police officer, three for possession of prohibited items and two for unlawful assembly.
In Seattle, police announced the arrest of 13 people during a Breonna Taylor protest on charges that including assaulting an officer, resisting arrest and obstruction. Seattle police said several businesses were vandalized and that officers deployed pepper spray on protesters.
Police in Portland, Oregon, said they detained a group of about 100 protesters when a march in honor of Taylor on Friday night and into Saturday morning devolved into property destruction in the city’s Pearl District. Police said in a statement that the group was detained after they blocked traffic in the area and refused to disperse.
“Some refused to comply and locked arms together in an effort to interfere with the investigation. Officers escorted them away and they were arrested,” according to the police statement.
Portland police said charges against those arrested ranged from vandalism to possession of firearms.
“Some threw rocks and full cans of beer at officers. Officers deployed some OC (pepper) spray and one impact munition,” the Portland police statement reads. “Arrests were made, including two suspects carrying firearms, wearing body armor and helmets.”
Authorities said once the crowd was dispersed, police discovered a crowbar, hammers, bear spray, a high-impact slingshot and several knives in the area where they had detained the large crowd.
In September, a grand jury declined to indict any of the officers involved in executing the “no-knock” drug-investigation warrant that led to Taylor’s death. No drugs were found in Taylor’s residence and police said the target of the investigation was Taylor’s ex-boyfriend.
One of the officers involved in the shooting, Brett Hankison, was indicted by the grand jury on a charge of wanton endangerment for allegedly firing errant shots that penetrated a wall of Taylor’s residence and entered an occupied neighboring apartment. Hankison, who was fired from the police department for violating policy on the use of deadly force, pleaded not guilty to the charge and is awaiting trial.
Daniel Cameron, the state’s first Black attorney general, sparked outrage when he later said his office did not give the grand jury the option to consider homicide charges against the officers because an investigation found they were justified in their use of deadly force because Taylor’s new boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired the first shot that hit one officer, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, in the leg.
While police say they knocked on Taylor’s door and announced themselves before forcing their way into the apartment, Walker and other witnesses in the vicinity alleged police stormed in unannounced.
Walker filed a federal lawsuit on Saturday against the Louisville Metro Police Department and the officers involved in the shooting, alleging they violated his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. He also attended Saturday’s demonstration in Louisville’s Jefferson Square Park.
“It’s hard and it’s rough for me to look at the fact of why we’re here but it’s great to see that she (Taylor) has so much support and love and also that there is some support and love for me, too,” Walker told ABC Louisville affiliate station WHAS-TV, during the demonstration.
Last week, a judge in Kentucky signed an order permanently closing a criminal case against Walker, who was initially charged with attempted murder.
“This morning I woke up thinking of justice and what that may look like. You know, I really don’t even know at this point — they dropped my charges, but I feel like that’s just the beginning and definitely doesn’t end there … only question I have now is probably the same thing everybody else is asking, you know, ‘what’s next?'” Walker said.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer released a statement on behalf of the city, saying, “I am deeply, deeply sorry” for Taylor’s death, something he has repeatedly said in the past. He mentioned other deaths of Black people in 2020 that shook America, including the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police and Amaud Arbery who was allegedly tracked down by three white Georgia men while out for a jog and fatally shot after being mistaken for a burglar.
“Breonna’s death devastated her family, friends and coworkers, and it has deeply shaken our community and our country. Her death, along with those of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and too many others, serve as painful reminders for Black Americans of the injustice, discrimination and violence they’ve faced for centuries — and too often still face today,” Fischer said in his statement. “For White America, these deaths were the latest reckoning and a just alarm that things must change — that America, united, must listen, understand and act to end the injustice that’s hurt and held our country back for far too long.”