Protests erupt in US over charges in Breonna Taylor shooting

Camille Camdessus, Agence France-Presse

Posted at Sep 24 2020 01:06 PM

A protester clashes with police after a grand jury considering the March killing of Breonna Taylor, a Black medical worker, in her home in Louisville, Kentucky, voted to indict one of three white police officers for wanton endangerment, in Louisville, Kentucky, US. September 23, 2020. Bryan Woolston, Reuters

LOUISVILLE— Angry protesters demanded justice for Breonna Taylor in cities across the United States on Wednesday after charges were filed against only one policeman involved in the controversial fatal shooting of the 26-year-old black woman, whose name has become a rallying cry of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The biggest protest was in Louisville, the largest city in Kentucky, where Taylor was killed in March, but demonstrators took to the streets across the nation— from New York and Boston to Washington to Los Angeles.

At least one police officer was shot during the protests in Louisville, police told AFP. Local media reported a second officer was shot. Their conditions were not immediately known.

Detective Brett Hankison, who was fired in June, was charged by a grand jury with three counts of "wanton endangerment" over shots he fired into apartments adjoining Taylor's home.

But neither Hankison nor the two officers who fired the shots that killed Taylor were charged in direct connection with her death.

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Louisville following the announcement, and Ben Crump, a lawyer for the Taylor family, condemned the grand jury decision as "outrageous and offensive."

Police in riot gear were seen making several arrests in the afternoon, and after night fell police used flash bangs to clear hundreds of protesters from Jefferson Square Park, where a memorial to Taylor was placed.

"Say her name— Breonna Taylor," they chanted. "No lives matter till black lives matter."

A state of emergency and a 9:00 pm curfew has been declared by the mayor of the city, which has a population of 600,000, with much of downtown closed to traffic.

Some downtown business owners boarded up their shops in anticipation of unrest sparked by the grand jury decision.

Taylor, an emergency room technician, was shot dead after three plainclothes policemen turned up at her door in the middle of the night to execute a search warrant.

Taylor's boyfriend, who was in bed with her, grabbed a gun and exchanged fire with the officers. He later said he thought they were criminals.

The officers, who had not activated their body cameras as required, shot Taylor multiple times, killing her. A police sergeant was wounded.

"Breonna Taylor deserves justice," 17-year-old black protester Decorryn Adams told AFP. "Nothing will change if we don't stick together."

'A TRAGEDY'

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said Hankison had not fired the fatal shots and the two other officers who opened fire had done so in self-defense.

He said Hankison was charged with three counts of "wanton endangerment" over shots he fired into adjoining apartments. He could face five years in prison for each count if convicted.

"This is a tragedy," Cameron said. "I know that not everyone will be satisfied with the charges reported today.

"Every person has an idea of what they think justice is."

Crump expressed disappointment on behalf of the family.

"This is outrageous and offensive to Breonna Taylor's memory," he said in a statement. "It's yet another example of no accountability for the genocide of persons of color by white police officers.

"If Hankison's behavior constituted wanton endangerment of the people in the apartments next to hers, then it should also be considered wanton endangerment of Breonna," Crump said. 

"In fact, it should have been ruled wanton murder."

The American Civil Liberties Union condemned the grand jury charges as "not accountability and not close to justice."

"This is the manifestation of what the millions of people who have taken to the streets to protest police violence already know: Modern policing and our criminal legal system are rotten to the core," the ACLU said.

Cameron, the attorney general, also addressed reports that the police officers had executed a "no-knock" search warrant on Taylor's home, bursting in without warning.

"They did knock and announce," he said. "That information was corroborated by another witness."

The city of Louisville settled a wrongful death suit with Taylor's family for $12 million last week.

The civil settlement reflected the public pressure and emotion surrounding her death, which came about two months before that of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis.

Floyd's death triggered protests across the United States against racial injustice and police brutality.

Cameron appealed for calm and Louisville police chief Robert Schroeder said the authorities would not tolerate any "violence or destruction of property."

"We are prepared to meet any challenge we may face," Schroeder said, calling for demonstrators to protest "peacefully and lawfully."