All eyes are on Louisville after Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced only one officer, Brett Hankison, would be charged with Wanton Endangerment and not for the killing of Breonna Taylor, but for shooting at her apartment complex like Yosemite Sam.
For perspective, Wanton Endangerment is a class D felony. Eighty-seven protestors were arrested and charged with class D felonies when they protested at Daniel Cameron’s home. But the protestors were arrested and charged swiftly, spending much longer than the 32 minutes in jail Hankison served.
The story now is that Louisville is prime for a riot as the National Guard is deployed, the local police force has blocked out the downtown area, and even a suburban Target has boarded its windows. This false narrative that the protestors are violent and dangerous exemplifies racism against Black people fighting for their liberation.
I’ve heard it from white, suburban moms like myself who preface their concern with comments like, “Now I support Black Lives Matter” or “I want justice for Breonna Taylor” but… “I’m scared.” They’re miles from downtown where protestors have been peacefully occupying a space they’ve reclaimed and renamed Injustice Square and have long-since White-flighted away from mostly Black neighborhoods that have a lack of fresh food, but a much higher homicide rate.
Protestors have been out daily in the streets of Louisville for more than 100 days and few of those days have dominated national news because they occurred without incident. So many people avoided the downtown area out of fear, but if they would have gone they would have seen the truth.
A stark city square outside the county jail and courthouse is now a memorial for Breonna Taylor filled with artwork, letters, signs, and flowers. Volunteers tend to a community garden with now has plants as tall as I stand and produces enough fresh vegetables to help feed the hungry in the community. Organizers provide community resources such as bail support, voting information, training, and even provide meals. One local journalist recorded the scene and noticed a protestor literally sweeping the street. There is tremendous pride in what they built at Injustice Square.
They should be proud. Since the protests began, Breonna’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker was released from jail and the charges against him were dropped. The LMPD chief was ousted. No-knock warrants, like the one used in the Taylor case, have been banned in Louisville and a statewide ban has been introduced in the Kentucky legislature. An investigation into the Taylor case is still ongoing by the FBI. Breonna Taylor’s name is not only said, but a call to action has also been made in her memory that is being answered far beyond Louisville. None of this would have happened if not for relentless protest. None of this happens by asking nicely and taking no for an answer.
When a peaceful protest is happening and police arrive, batons in hand, armored vehicles, and weapons at the ready—tensions escalate. There’s a change in the air. Protestors have been chanting at police, “I don’t see no riot here, so why are you in riot gear?” Why does a protest with a community garden and voter registration warrant the deployment of tear gas and rubber bullets?
The increased militarized response has not kept Louisville safer. When the National Guard was called in, a beloved restaurant owner who served local cops complimentary BBQ was shot and killed. Tensions rose when right-wing militia announced they were coming to “keep the peace” and a young photographer, Tyler Gerth, was shot and killed. Hundreds of protestors have been arrested. Countless have been injured. The protest of police brutality has been met with brutality, again and again. For months. For years. For decades.
The world is watching Louisville waiting for the riot that warrants the riot gear. Look harder. Look beyond the protestors and examine the systemic failures that deny justice to a young woman killed in her own home. Look at the pain. If our city burns tonight, don’t just look for the spark. Look for the fuel that set it ablaze.