LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Hundreds gathered at Jefferson Square Park in Louisville on Saturday to continue demanding justice for Breonna Taylor on the one year anniversary, March 13, that she was fatally shot by Louisville police last year.
“She was like my best friend. She was like my sister. We grew up in the same house together since we was young,” said Damian Smith, who asked his name be changed for privacy because he is Breonna Taylor’s cousin. The 29-year-old traveled with family from Grand Rapids, Mich. to be there for the a day that included multiple speakers and a march.
“She's everything to me, you know,” Smith said. “Like anytime she came to Grand Rapids, I was the first person she called.”
What You Need To Know
- Hundreds gathered Saturday to march and protest, demanding justice for Breonna Taylor
- Taylor was killed by police during a no-knock raid. No officers involved in her death have faced charges related to her death, and activists are calling for that to change
- Speakers Saturday included Taylor's boyfriend Kenneth Walker, lawyers, activists, and Sadiqa Reynolds
- Families of George Floyd and Jacob Blake — two other Black Americans shot by police last year — were also present
The day’s events kicked off with the No Justice No Peace Choir singing, which then followed with many speakers continuing to demand justice for Taylor, including her boyfriend.
As some in the crowd chanted “hero” to Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker, he thanked everyone for all of the “love and support” for himself and Taylor.
Walker’s charges were dropped Monday for allegedly shooting and wounding police LMPD officer Sgt. Jon Mattingly, who was involved in the no-knock warrant that resulted in Taylor’s death last year. He said the dropping of those charges is a nice start but that wasn’t what they were gathered for.
“We gotta keep going. That’s really all I got. We have to keep going,” he said, regarding seeking justice for Taylor.
Now that Walker’s charges have been dropped, protesters want Commonwealth Attorney Tom Wine, who initially recused himself from investigating LMPD for shooting Breonna Taylor because he was investigating and charging Walker, to pick the case back up.
“So now Tom Wine has no excuses, and we are here to tell him to do his job and prosecute the police officers that murdered Breonna Taylor,” said Until Freedom Co-founder Linda Sarsour.
In a statement Thursday, Wine stated in part: “The Office of Commonwealth’s Attorney does not plan to present this matter to another grand jury as long as there is a pending federal investigation. To do so would create a risk of inconsistent results and recommendations and potentially hinder rather than advance justice in this case.”
Wine was referring to the investigation that is still ongoing by the FBI and the United States Department of Justice, which is looking at violations of federal civil rights from what happened on March 13, 2020.
Keturah Herron, a policy strategist with ACLU Kentucky, focused her speech on what is going on during the General Assembly in Frankfort, regarding legislation to ban no-knock warrants.
“We still do not have a Breonna‘s Law statewide in Kentucky. We need you to make sure that you are blowing up the phones, emailing and demanding that we ban no-knock warrants statewide,” she said.
Next week Kentucky lawmakers are expected to vote on Senate Bill 4 (SB 4), which would ban some no-knock warrants. However, it’s a different bill from the one introduced by Kentucky State Representative Attica Scott (D-Louisville), House Bill 21 (HB 21), which many called “Breonna’s Law” and would have banned all no-knock warrants. HB 21 was not brought to a vote, and Scott has said she would like to see amendments to SB 4.
The lawyers for Taylor’s family, Ben Crump, Lonita Baker and Sam Aguiar who settled a civil suit last year for $12 million with police reforms, also spoke. Baker spoke about the moment she first heard of what happened on March 13, 2020 and then recalled her first conversation with Taylor’s mother.
“And that day her sister stepped up because Tamika Palmer was exactly how you would expect her to be one day after losing her daughter,” Baker said.
During the series of speeches, it was mentioned that the family’s of George Floyd, Jacob Blake, and others who have had loved ones killed by police were present Saturday.
Two sisters, Michelle and Ashley Monterrosa, whose brother Sean was fatally shot last year in June by a police officer in Vallejo, Calif., also took to the stage.
“I just want to acknowledge that there is a lot of anti-Blackness within the Latino community, but we are here to change that narrative. We are here for y’all,” Ashley said.
Other speakers also included Tamika Mallory, also a co-founder with Until Freedom.
“It’s going to take all of us together to get justice, not just for Breonna Taylor, but for me too and for you,” she said.
President and CEO of Louisville Urban League, Sadiqa Reynolds, started her speech by stating she brought one of her daughters with her. She said when she woke-up Saturday she felt blessed.
“Because I didn’t wake-up on the first anniversary of the death of my child. Louisville, Kentucky, if you have never woken up on the first anniversary of the death of your daughter, you have no idea what Tamika Palmer is going through,” Reynolds said.
More speakers continued after Reynolds, and then protesters marched around downtown Louisville.
After the march, Smith lifted up his shirt to show people around him a new tattoo he just got on his back, a portrait of his cousin, Breonna Taylor.
“She watching over my back. That’s why I got her on my back, you know, so she could just watch over me. She’s an angel of mine,” Smith told Spectrum News 1.
Smith said he has about 28 tattoos and every single one is meaningful and special to him. He called Taylor’s portrait another jewel added to his body.
“That was my everything. That was my heart. That was my best friend,” Smith said.
Breonna Taylor, a person that left her mark not only on Smith, but, as the protests have shown, also the world.