“People Are In Total Shock”: After Breonna Taylor Ruling, Where Do Activists Go Next?
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In Louisville, protests are demanding greater accountability from both the city police and the attorney general’s office. “I’m thinking about how we organize as a Black community,” says one city council member.

Following Wednesday’s grand jury decision to charge only one of the officers involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor, demonstrators have taken to the streets in Louisville, Kentucky, and several states across the country. The mood in the city, said Jecorey Arthur, who at 28 is the youngest person ever elected to Louisville's city council, is an “explosion of centuries of inequities.” Arthur was one of the first city officials to publicly criticize the ruling, which saw Brett Hankison, one of three officers who fired their weapons during the March raid, charged with three counts of “wanton endangerment”—each of which carries up to a five-year prison sentence—and released on a $15,000 bond. None of the officers were directly charged with Taylor’s death. 

In conjunction with the ruling, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced a series of police reforms, including greater scrutiny around no-knock warrants like the one used to enter Taylor’s apartment. Arthur was unmoved. “As of now that’s just lip service,” he said. “What he said and what he does are very different actions, and it doesn’t matter if he says he wants to address policing and introduce reform within the criminal justice system. He’s a part of that system that has mistreated Black people for centuries.”

For Keturah Herron, an ACLU policy strategist and member of BLM Louisville, Wednesday’s announcement was a stinging example of the city’s failure to hold itself accountable. “I think more than anything people are in total shock of the verdict and the way it came down,” she said. “I think that we were preparing ourselves that only Hankison would be charged, however we wasn't expecting that he wouldn’t be charged for the death of Breonna Taylor.” Herron’s organizing has largely focused on mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline, both of which she believes are directly linked to police violence in Black communities. The efforts of BLM Louisville were instrumental in Rep. Attica Scott introducing Breonna’s Law, which would ban no-knock search warrants across Kentucky, as well as require body cameras to be worn during the execution of search warrants, and implement drug and alcohol testing for officers involved in shootings.

Shortly after the announcement, BLM Louisville issued a set of demands that called for “divesting from the LMPD and investing in community building;” the “immediate resignation (or impeachment) of Mayor Greg Fischer;” and “a local civilian community police accountability council that is independent from the Mayor's office and LMPD with investigation and discipline power.” Fischer currently has Louisville under a 72-hour curfew. Arthur told me that as a city council member one of his main goals will be to engage with Louisville’s Black community in tangible and meaningful ways. “We are mistreated in the city, so I’m in the position now where I’m thinking about how we organize as a Black community around our Black elected officials, to create a Black agenda that is going to address our specific issues,” he said. “That includes policing of course, that’s very much a part of this conversation, and it also includes wealth-building because that has been extracted from our community.”

As the city of Louisville continues to buckle in the aftermath of Taylor’s death, its recent $12 million settlement to the Taylor family has raised questions about the meaning of monetary compensation in the absence of a murder charge. “I think what we saw with that settlement is that the city finally got caught with their pants down,” said Herron. “The day Breonna Taylor was killed they asked her mother if she had any enemies, knowing that it was the police that shot her. From when the incident happened up until today, the city has continued to traumatize that family.” 

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From: VANITYFAIR