Protesters Flood the Streets of America After Police Officers Avoid Charges in Breonna Taylor’s Killing

Nicole Rojas
Sep 24, 2020 - 1:34

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Americans throughout the country took to the streets after authorities announced that none of the officers responsible for Breonna Taylor’s death would face charges for killing her. In Louisville, protesters demonstrated throughout the night despite the city’s curfew and restriction downtown. 

In a devastating blow to calls for justice, Jefferson County Judge Annie O’Connell announced that just one of the officers who shot and killed Taylor would face criminal charges in connection to her case. The decision came a day before the city marked 120 days of protests in search of justice for Taylor and her family. 

Former Louisville Metro Police officer Brett Hankison was charged with three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment. The charge stems from Hankison’s indiscriminate shooting into neighboring apartments.

Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove, the two other officers who fired into Taylor’s apartment the night of March 13, were not charged. Hankison was fired from LMPD in June for his actions during the shooting, but Mattingly and Cosgrove remain on LMPD’s payroll. 

The Louisville Courier-Journal reported that some 200 people gathered at Jefferson Square Park — site of the months-long Black Lives Matter protests — to hear the announcement. As expected, the decision prompted anger, frustration and pain among protesters and Taylor’s family.

“We somehow got our hopes up in this case. We wanted to believe the system would change,” Sadiqa Reynolds of the Louisville Urban League told CNN. Reynolds said that instead, she and others are “devastated.” 

In a heartbreaking response to the news, Taylor’s sister Juniyah took to Instagram to apologize to her sister. “Sister, you was failed by a system you worked hard for and I am so sorry,” Juniyah wrote in her stories. “I love you so so so so so much.” 

Taylor’s family lawyer Ben Crump told CNN that he and Taylor’s family will “go to our graves proclaiming that Breonna Taylor did not get justice from the Kentucky attorney general’s office.” 

After the announcement, protesters marched from the designated protest area to the edges of downtown. Protesters used the opportunity to express their frustrations with city and state leaders, who they blame for the lack of action in Taylor’s case. Demonstrations also took place in cities across the country, with reports of violent reactions by police departments in some cities.

Louisville

Ahead of the decision’s announcement, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer set a countywide 72-hour curfew beginning at 9 a.m. on Sept. 23. The executive order did little to quell protesters’ frustration and anger. 

Hundreds took to Louisville’s streets and remained throughout the night. Two officers were shot and injured during the protest. Police arrested 26-year-old Larynzo Johnson, who will reportedly face multiple charges of first-degree assault of a police officer and first-degree wanton endangerment, The Louisville Courier Journal reported. 

A citation by the Jefferson County Circuit Court clerk’s office said Johnson “showed an extreme indifference to the value of human life” and put police officers in danger of death or serious injury, according to the newspaper. Authorities claimed Johnson “intentionally used a handgun to fire multiple bullets at officers.” Two officers were struck but are expected to survive. 

Protesters continued to clash with police, as officers threatened to use tear gas on demonstrators. LMPD told the Courier-Journal that 127 people were arrested. The arrests were allegedly for “damaging businesses, jumping on city vehicles used as barricades,” curfew violations and unlawful assembly, according to The Lexington Herald Leader

New York

In New York, thousands of protesters gathered in Brooklyn and marched across Manhattan Bridge. The New York Times reported that the crowd surged to around 2,000 people and eventually shut down traffic on the bridge. Protesters in New York told reporters that they were not surprised by the decision to not hold the police officers accountable for Taylor’s murder. 

“I would have been surprised if justice was served,” a protester told NBC New York. “We can march and we can sing and we can shout and we can pray, but unless those changes don’t happen where they need to happen, and unless the climate of this country doesn’t change and it’s not going anywhere, we’re just going to see more Breonna Taylor’s unfortunately.” 

Protests in New York remained largely peaceful and no reports of arrests were made. 

Seattle

Unlike those in New York City, protests in Seattle were filled with reports of police violence. At least 13 protesters were arrested in Capitol Hill and one officer was referred to the Office of Police Accountability following Wednesday night’s protests.

Police responded violently to demonstrators outside the department’s East Precinct. According to the Seattle Times, police declared the gathering an unlawful assembly and used pepper spray and other “less lethal” weapons to clear protesters out. 

There were reports of damage to city and business property after 8:30 p.m., prompting Seattle police to issue a dispersal order shortly before 9 p.m. local time. Protesters reassembled outside the department’s East Precinct on Capital Hill at around 10:30 p.m. Demonstrators chanted and played music before a firework was thrown at the precinct, the newspaper reported. 

Officers then descended on the crowd, pepper spraying the crowd and sending protesters running for cover. One video from the scene shows an officer on a bicycle riding over a protester’s head and neck.

Things eventually settled at 11th Avenue and Pine Street, but police issued another dispersal order shortly before midnight after a fire erupted outside of an apartment building. The Seattle Times reported that officers used blast balls, pepper spray and impact munitions to clear out protesters. 

Another unlawful assembly was declared at around 12:30 a.m. Protesters eventually returned to Cal Anderson around 1 a.m. before dispersing. 

New York City and Seattle were recently designated as “anarchist jurisdictions” by the Trump administration’s Department of Justice. The DOJ claims NYC, Seattle and Portland “have permitted violence and destruction of property to persist and have refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract criminal activities.”

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a senior writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.

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