BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — A community group that aims to promote unity held a protest in Bowling Green in honor of Breonna Taylor.
They opposed a scheduled event where former Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) officer Jonathan Mattingly would have spoken to a group of Republican women voters. Mattingly was one of three who took part in the infamous raid that killed Taylor.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Ryan Quarles was also scheduled to be at the event. But hours after Quarles pulled out in the wake of swirling controversy, organizers told Spectrum News 1 the event itself was canceled.
But Vilson Qehaja, with Anna's Restaurant in Bowling Green, confirmed that the restaurant hosted around 80 people with the women's club Tuesday night. It's unclear if Mattingly was in attendance.
Protesters with the Bowling Green Freedom Walkers’ stood at the corner of a busy intersection Tuesday night to oppose the event.
They gathered because former Louisville Metro Police Department Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly was invited to speak at the dinner. He fired his gun and was injured during the deadly raid at Breonna Taylor’s apartment in 2020.
The club released a statement that said in part that Mattingly was invited to share “his firsthand accounts of the evening.”
Sonja Byrd has lived in Bowling Green for about 20 years. She felt it was important to show up to the protest and to share her thoughts.
“I can’t let them think it’s OK, and I can’t expect everybody else to do it for me,” Byrd said.
In a now deleted Facebook post, the women’s club originally promoted the event as a fundraiser for Ryan Quarles.
The agriculture commissioner is one of 12 Republican gubernatorial candidates running to unseat Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.
Quarles’ campaign shared a statement hours before the event would have started, saying, “Due to the controversial nature of another speaker at this event, we have decided to reschedule to a later date.”
Some protesters felt even though the dinner event was canceled, that too little was done too late.
“Mattingly doesn’t deserve a chance to speak. His turn to speak was during the trial, in the courtroom, that was his chance to tell the truth,” Summer Shannon, the president of the BG Freedom Walkers said.
Byrd joined the protest after seeing the event poster on social media. “To see women use the dead body of Breonna Taylor to fundraise in my town, I had to get out,” Byrd said.
Karika Nelson is the founder of the BG Freedom Walkers. She wants Breonna Taylor’s impact to continue to live on.
“We wanted to be here tonight to let everyone to know that Breonna Taylor’s life mattered. It’s always going to matter and we’re going to be here for Breonna Taylor,” Nelson said.
Byrd has advice on how others can help share their thoughts. “Get out and do what you can. If you can’t get out, share. If you don’t want to share with 150 people, share with one person,” she said.
The BG Freedom Walkers say there is a lot more work to be done and they will always “say her name.”