The only person to face charges for his actions in the early hours of March 13, the day Breonna Taylor was killed, was a former Louisville Metro Police officer who, in fact, wasn’t charged with her fatal shooting at all. On Wednesday afternoon, a grand jury handed down to Brett Hankison three charges of wanton endangerment, for shots he fired that could have hit Taylor’s neighbors.
The rage from that decision seized thousands across the country, who marched in the streets of New York, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Portland to chant Taylor’s name and raise demands to overhaul the criminal justice system. In Louisville, where city officials had braced for protests since the beginning of the week, closing federal buildings and declaring a state of emergency, two officers were shot and sustained non-life-threatening injuries after responding to reports of shots at around 8:30 pm in a large crowd. The LMPD has a suspect in custody but has not released the name of the alleged shooter, reports the Washington Post.
It’s also unclear at this point whether the gunman was a participant in the protests. Earlier this year, right-wing militias and extremist groups like the Boogaloo Bois have attended Black Lives Matter protests to confront protesters or, in the case of alleged killer Steven Carillo, used the protests as cover to attack federal agents.
New York Times reporter John Eligon, who was on the scene of the Louisville protests, observed that demonstrators had marched peacefully for hours before police in riot gear “confronted protesters and then began pushing them.”
“A chemical agent was used and the officers began arresting protesters, dragging some to the ground by the collar,” Eligon wrote on Twitter, accompanied by a video. “Officers then declare an unlawful assembly.”
The crowd, Eligon says, was “fairly thin in numbers,” and clearly outmanned and outgunned by police, who had two armored vehicles with them.
After a loud but peaceful march of about 2 hours, police in riot gear confronted protesters and then began pushing them. A chemical agent was used and the officers began arresting protesters, dragging some to the ground by the collar. Officers then declare an unlawful assembly. pic.twitter.com/FWIznqK1tc
— John Eligon (@jeligon) September 23, 2020
Protesters in Buffalo, N.Y, were also the target of the violence. At a march in Niagara Square, a truck plowed through a group of demonstrators, injuring one woman.
BREAKING WESTERN NEW YORK NEWS: during a protest at Niagara Square in Buffalo over the lack of charges for officers in Breonna Taylor's death a truck drove into the crowd in front of City Hall injuring one woman who was taken to ECMC with non-life threatening injuries. pic.twitter.com/6cAcy3G0Ku
— The Niagara Reporter (@niagarareporter) September 24, 2020
But throughout the country, protesters were determined to have their messages heard. As politicians, including Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden condemned violence at the demonstrations, those who took to the streets to march remained focused on Taylor’s killing, and the ways the system had, once again, failed Black Americans.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, representing the Taylor family, called the indictment “heartbreaking” to CNN’s Don Lemon Wednesday night.
“It’s like killing Breonna all over again,” Crump said. “Clearly [Kentucky Attorney General] Daniel Cameron and the attorney general’s office wanted to exonerate these officers or try to justify the unjustifiable.”
Benjamin Crump, attorney for the family of Breonna Taylor, says the family is “outraged” with the grand jury’s decision.
“Clearly Daniel Cameron and the attorney general’s office wanted to exonerate these officers or try to justify the unjustifiable,” Crump said. pic.twitter.com/1o3TDUwsRv
— CNN (@CNN) September 24, 2020
Critical race theorist and African American Policy Forum Executive Director Kimberlé Crenshaw tweeted that even if the charges against Louisville Metro Police officers were harsher—Taylor’s family had hoped for homicide charges—that would not have been enough to address the broader issue of keeping Black Americans safe from state violence:
“If we thought the problem and the solution to the tragedy of Breonna Taylor was simply prosecuting these cops, then we’re not understanding the broader systemic conditions that allow for the kind of policing that disproportionately imperils Black Americans.”
If we thought the problem and the solution to the tragedy of Breonna Taylor was simply prosecuting these cops, then we’re not understanding the broader systemic conditions that allow for the kind of policing that disproportionately imperils Black Americans...
— Kimberlé Crenshaw (@sandylocks) September 23, 2020
“I’m exhausted that Black people are not getting the justice we deserve,” 24-year-old Nasceita Luckett in Chicago told The Washington Post. Wednesday night marked her first protest. “I’m so tired of turning on the TV, it keeps going and it is never going to stop. … This is my time to try to make a difference.”
In Louisville, a Black male protester told the Times’ Eligon, “Fuck the system. If anyone can get killed how Breonna got killed by the police, there’s no way we should live in a society where that’s possible.”