RSN Fundraising Banner
'It's Not Going to Stop': Four Months on, They're Still Marching for Breonna Taylor
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=52090"><span class="small">Josh Wood, Guardian UK</span></a>   
Saturday, 26 September 2020 12:51

Wood writes: "For more than 120 days now, protesters have been gathering in downtown Louisville's Jefferson Square Park calling for racial justice and charges against the officers involved in the police killing of Breonna Taylor."

Protesters at Jefferson Square Park in downtown Louisville on Thursday. Protesters say they will keep pushing for racial justice. (photo: Andrew Cenci/Guardian/UK)
Protesters at Jefferson Square Park in downtown Louisville on Thursday. Protesters say they will keep pushing for racial justice. (photo: Andrew Cenci/Guardian/UK)

'It's Not Going to Stop': Four Months on, They're Still Marching for Breonna Taylor

By Josh Wood, Guardian UK

26 September 20

For weeks protesters have gathered in downtown Louisville to mourn, grieve, rally and love. Here are five of their stories

or more than 120 days now, protesters have been gathering in downtown Louisville’s Jefferson Square Park calling for racial justice and charges against the officers involved in the police killing of Breonna Taylor.

From spring to summer and now to fall, the small plaza that sits in front of the Kentucky city’s Metro Hall and Hall of Justice has been a place for protesters to gather, mourn, rally and, at times, celebrate. Its heart is an always growing and changing memorial to Breonna Taylor filled with artwork and messages.

The square – now referred to as Injustice Square Park by many – attracts a wide variety of people: From homeless to politicians, college kids to the elderly. They are young, old, rich, poor, Black, white and neither. The park has taken on a life of its own and some regulars there have their own duties as well: there are live-streamers who broadcast events, gardeners, medics who treat medical emergencies and cooks who serve up feasts to crowds.

On Wednesday, those in the square were overcome with sadness and anger when it was announced that a grand jury would only bring wanton endangerment charges against one officer, Brett Hankison, for shots he fired that entered an apartment neighboring Taylor’s. To protesters, no justice had been served.”

Hankison had previously been fired from the Louisville metro police pepartment for “wantonly and blindly” firing into Taylor’s apartment while showing “an extreme indifference to the value of human life.” While Taylor was hit by six bullets, Kentucky attorney general Daniel Cameron said only one of the shots was fatal and that shot was fired by Myles Cosgrove, who was not charged with any crime.

In Louisville, curfew is in effect and the national guard has been called in. Downtown businesses are mostly boarded up and the city has blocked off streets leading to much of the city center. More than 150 people have been arrested in recent days. Protesters say they are undeterred and will keep pushing for racial justice and keep saying Breonna Taylor’s name.

Here are five of their stories:

Maxwell Mitchell, 32

Back before the pandemic shut things down, graphic designer Maxwell Mitchell was always setting up phones to live-stream poetry slams, concerts and other community events. On the first day of massive protests in Louisville – the evening of 28 May after a 911 call made by Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker was made public – he knew what he had to do.

“It was sort of muscle memory to pull out my phone and start live-streaming,” he said.

Mitchell has been a fixture at the protests ever since, capturing scenes of both quiet and chaos in the city. Like a small cadre of other streamers who have dedicated themselves to covering the protests, Mitchell often records scenes that occur when traditional journalists are absent or their cameras are pointed elsewhere.

On the night of 27 June, Mitchell was filming as a man opened fire on the protest square with a pistol, killing Tyler Gerth, a 27-year-old photographer who had been documenting the protests. Mitchell’s video was the clearest of the incident.

“I kept the camera steady, stayed low and just kept my breathing calm,” he said. “His [Gerth’s] family was able to use that and courts were able to use that to deduce who that was. I was told I was the only one who was live at that moment. So I’m just really happy I did that.”

Like Louisville’s other live-streamers, he considers himself a part of the protest movement.

Chris Wells, 31

As feelings of anger, sadness and hopelessness spread over many in Louisville after the announcement that no one would be charged with Taylor’s killing, protest organizer Chris Wells was still feeling optimistic.

“I say everything that’s been going on is beautiful, period,” he said. “Because it’s not just one city, it’s not just one town, it’s the whole nation. So it’s beautiful. And they’re all doing it for justice for Breonna Taylor.”

To Wells, change is happening. There is a ban on no-knock warrants in Louisville and such bans are being discussed on a national level. People are paying attention to what’s going on. People are saying Breonna Taylor’s name.

“It’s not going to stop just because it was dismissed. We going to keep pushing,” he said. “Now it’s time to really hit them where it hurts: it’s called registering to vote.”

Leading marches has become a full-time job for Wells. When he first showed up on the second day of protests, he didn’t have a network to organize. Now he’s a leader.

On Thursday afternoon, he was, like he often is, in Jefferson Square Park, which sits in front of the building that houses the mayor’s office. The city had blocked off access much of downtown with concrete barriers and trucks. On some streets, National Guard troops stood watch behind chain-link fences.

“We are in the lion’s den. And we’re out here in they faces every day,” said Wells. “So that just shows that we are bringing the fight to you. You’re not running from this cause any more.”

Sade Unique, 29

Sade Unique drove four hours to Louisville from her home in Illinois after she heard about the decision in the Breonna Taylor case. She arrived at downtown Louisville’s protest square at about 9.30pm, half an hour after curfew went in effect. Things seemed relatively quiet to her at first – until police began announcing the protest was an unlawful assembly.

She said she tried to leave, but was unfamiliar with the city and kept on running into roads that authorities blocked off in recent days as well as lines of cops in riot gear. Like more than 120 other protesters that day, she was arrested. She spent six hours in jail.

“It upsets me that me – a positive person – has spent more time in jail than a person who wrongfully killed somebody,” she said. That was the furthest thing from justice I’ve ever seen in my life.”

On Thursday afternoon, 12 hours after her release, she was standing next to the boarded-up Louisville metro department of corrections building waiting for her two brothers to get out of custody.

Patrick McKinney, 53

The day after the grand jury decision was made was the first time public school teacher Patrick McKinney came down to the protest square. He’d been attending protests in other parts of the city, but had not ventured to Jefferson Square Park in the heart of downtown Louisville.

“What brought me down today was reading a lot of the posts on social media and saying, ‘You know, that’s not fair, that’s not accurate,’” he said. “I need to see for myself, and I need to be down here to experience it for myself.”

Louisville has a history of “polite racism” he said – one where white people were fine with African Americans so long as they stayed west of the I-65 highway that cuts through the city.

McKinney grew up and still lives in the eastern part of the metro area, which is majority white. He says the first time he was called the N-word was in the streets of his neighborhood when he was in first grade.

On Thursday, he was in the protest square wearing a shirt that said “eracism” – as in, erase racism.

“This should have happened about 100 years ago,” he said. But “maybe it’ll be the next hundred years. This is maybe the initial step.”

Jeff Gill, 38

Jeff Gill was driving past a homeless person living under a Louisville underpass a few years back when he started thinking about all the extra stuff he had that he could give to people on the street. As a person who was once homeless for a year, bouncing between friends couches and at times stealing food from grocery stores because he didn’t have money, he wanted to give back and dedicated his life to serving those living on the streets.

As the founder of the homeless outreach organization Hip Hop Cares, Gill has witnessed and documented the ways Louisville’s police have tried to clear out homeless encampments. Now, he sees similarities in their approach to the racial justice protesters.

“They treat this movement as they do the folks that are experiencing homelessness on the streets,” he said. “It’s the same type of treatment: less than, criminalized, dehumanized, it’s a lot of the same things. This is something that’s been building and building for years, and until they change the culture, nothing’s going to change.”

As the father of mixed-race daughters, Gill feels a sense of responsibility to be a part of the protest movement and has been in the square almost every day. He says he helps organizers with whatever he can: From security, helping with traffic to aid.

For years, Gill has been bringing food to the homeless living on the streets of downtown Louisville. But on Thursday morning he said he was turned back by cops as he tried to drive breakfast foods downtown; police now man checkpoints entering an area that covers much of downtown and only allow vehicles in for what they call “legitimate business”. your social media marketing partner