LOUISVILLE—“I never had faith in Daniel Cameron…what I had hoped is that he knew he had the power and that he had the power to start the healing of this city. And that he had the power to help mend over 400 years of oppression. What he helped me realize is that it will always be us against them. That we are never safe when it comes to them,” said Bianca Austin, the aunt of Breonna Taylor.
These sentiments were spoken in response to Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s explanation of a grand jury decision to not directly charge three police officers in the killing of Breonna Taylor.
Ms. Austin read from a written statement given to her by Tamika Palmer, Breonna’s mother during a press conference held Sept. 25 by the family of the slain 26-year-old Black woman. The grand jury charged one of three Louisville narcotic unit police officers with three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment for recklessly shooting through Ms. Taylor’s apartment into the White neighbor’s unit next door.
After Atty. Cameron’s Sept. 23 announcement about the grand jury’s decision, hundreds of people converged at Jefferson Square Park located across the street from Louisville’s police headquarters and City Hall. Screams and cries of disbelief from those gathered could be heard audibly. “No, that’s bullsh**, come on man you got to be f***ing kidding me,” shouted a man in the crowd. Family members of Breonna embraced each other, dropped their heads with tears streaming down their faces. Nationwide protests, fires and civil unrest have continued in the days since the decision was announced.
Blacks in Louisville are angry, tired and frustrated by the inequities that plague their city. Black people live in the poorest part of the city where racial disparities, injustices, police brutality and poverty are their harsh reality. Many residents of Louisville love their city in general but hate the mistreatment of Black people. The grand jury decision and the how Atty. Cameron has handled the case is just the latest in the what they argue is a long history of racism plaguing the city.
“The people of Louisville is tired of the same ole song, it was never about the money with us. We just wanted to see them do the right thing and once again they failed us, we are tired sir,” Karen Johnson, told The Final Call “We wanted justice for Breonna Taylor. I’ve got locked up, pepperball sprayed, shot with rubber bullets. And they have tried to bully us and we will continue to fight, that’s our motivation. I’m telling you, dealing with LMPD (Louisville Metropolitan Police Department) is a lot, because they are the bullies” stressed Ms. Johnson.
“So I don’t think anything is going to change, because Kentucky is one of the reddest states and always have been. We are one of the last in education, on the bottom. We as a people have a long way to go here. Like when it comes to diversity, the University of Louisville prides themselves on having Black athletes. They only like us because they like us to play their games,” she added. “But that’s about it, like they only take care of their players, they don’t treat their students the same. The basketball players are treated very good. Louisville has a lot of money, has a lot of endowments and they even have chefs that comes and cooks for them inside of their dorms,” said Amanda Harris, a Louisville resident.
“Point blank period, I don’t think there’s going to be any rest for a very long time,” she added.
Attorneys Benjamin Crump, Lonita Baker and Sam Aguiar, the legal team representing Ms. Palmer, are demanding Mr. Cameron release the grand jury transcripts and recordings to show what evidence he presented.
“Did he tell them about the probable cause affidavit that had a lie on it, which was the basis for which the judge signed the ‘no knock’ warrant? … Did he tell them about the 12 neighbors that lived in close proximity to Breonna’s apartment that didn’t hear the officers announce themselves? What evidence did he present to them?” asked Atty. Crump at the press conference. The family and their attorneys are calling for a special prosecutor to step in. Breonna’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker who was in their apartment that March 13 night and fired a shot at who he thought were intruders, is also calling for the release of grand jury transcripts. One officer was struck in the leg.
Breonna and Kenneth Walker were asleep when the officers tried to execute a “no knock” search warrant. The officers were reportedly investigating a suspected drug operation linked to Breonna’s ex-boyfriend but no drugs were found in the apartment. Officers fired several times and Breonna was struck by at least five bullets. Earlier in September the city settled a civil suit with Breonna’s family for $12 million.
“The rallying cries that have been echoing throughout the nation have been once again ignored by a justice system that claims to serve the people. But when a justice system only acts in the best interest of the most privileged and Whitest among us, it has failed,” said Atty. Crump.
Student Minister Jerald Muhammad, coordinator for the Nation of Islam study group in Louisville, spoke about protests and changes within the police department that need to be implemented. One concern he stressed is how officers will be handled when they are fired or leave one department and attempt to go to another one. “There should be a complete background check on the officers and they should not be allowed to move from one department to the next one, period!” he stated. He noted that many Blacks are disappointed with Daniel Cameron. “A lot of Blacks supported him because he was a brother, regardless that he is a Republican or who he is married to, he’s a brother so we said ‘let’s give him a chance.’”
Dana Aiyanna is an organizer for the Kentucky Alliance, a 30-year-old organization that fights racism in police practices, employment, economic opportunity, school systems, courts and prisons. Ms. Aiyanna has protested in the city and volunteers in providing resources for other protestors who have occupied Jefferson Square Park since May. “We planted different plants so people can have food to eat. We kicked off this ‘Occupy the Park’ because of the location near the LMPD, the courthouse, and Mayor Fisher’s office. We’re letting them know we are not going anywhere. We successfully made it to 135 days, but it’s a bit surreal now with the decision. It’s been four months with building a community out here,” said Ms. Aiyanna
“I feel like this is just the beginning. We have the elections coming up with (Sen.) Mitch McConnell and we must vote him out. And they are trying to rename this park ‘Civic Center.’ They must respect Breonna and the protestors who have been out here or it’s going to be a lot of unrest. Also, with the gentrification that’s going on which adds to another layer of corruption in this town. Like I said, we are not going anywhere,” she added.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer implemented an ongoing citywide curfew from 9:00 p.m.- 6:00 a.m. Protesters have continuously marched peacefully through the streets of Louisville. But when approximately 1,000 demonstrators marched in the affluent neighborhood of the Highlands they were met by hundreds of heavily armed and aggressive Louisville police officers. Protestors were attacked by police and many were beaten when they refused to back up and turn around. Over the course of 11 days approximately 250 arrests have been made of protestors for failing to disperse and for unlawful assembly. Two Louisville police officers were shot and suffered minor injuries. A suspect was arrested.
Jacob Blake Sr., father of Jacob Blake who was shot seven times in the back by a Kenosha, Wisconsin police officer, came to Louisville to stand in solidarity with Breonna’s family. The shooting his son, who is now paralyzed, also sparked protests.
“I understand what Tamika Palmer is going through and I understand the power and support that God have given me. Allah (God) have blessed me with the ability to be strong and I brought it to her. Because that’s my obligation, that’s an obligation that each Black man in America should understand. That’s not right!” Mr. Blake told The Final Call.
Chris Thompson, a Louisville resident, was also displeased with the outcome of the grand jury’s decision. He said as long as Black people are divided, they cannot complain about how other people treat them. He expressed the need for the Black community to come together to make a positive change in their city.
“What needs to be next is unity. We are fighting among ourselves as the police sit and watch. We need to come together and have each other’s back for a cause,” said Mr. Thompson. “Unity is the most powerful thing a man can have or pray on. So, what we are hollering about is that ‘enough is enough.’”