United States: Outrage in Louisville after police not charged with Breonna Taylor’s murder

September 24, 2020
Protests have erupted across the United States in response to the announcement that no cops will be charged with killing of emergency technician Breonna Taylor.

Street protests were immediately held in Louisville, Kentucky, and demands for justice are being raised around the United States, in response to the announcement that none of the cops involved in Breonna Taylor’s death will be charged.

Daniel Cameron ‒ a protégé of Republican Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, a Donald Trump backer, and Kentucky’s first African American attorney general ‒ announced on September 23 that there was no basis to charge the three cops who killed Taylor in her apartment on March 13.

The cops kicked in Taylor’s door after midnight and fired 32 bullets into her apartment. At least five shots hit her.

A grand jury indicted one of the three officers on September 23 for endangering Taylor’s neighbours by recklessly firing his gun during the “no-knock” raid on her apartment.

Brett Hankison, a former detective, was indicted on three counts of “wanton endangerment” for threatening three people’s lives by firing bullets that travelled through Taylor’s apartment and into theirs, reported the Louisville Courier-Journal.

“A pregnant woman, her husband and their five-year-old child were asleep in that apartment, and the bullets shattered a glass door but did not harm the couple and their child.”

The grand jury did not mention Taylor’s name in their report, nor recognise the “wanton endangerment” to her life.

In a news conference following the announcement, Cameron said he knew that some people would not be satisfied with the report.

Louisville reaction

A curfew was established in Louisville, as protests grew. Some violence broke out, including against cops.

Taylor’s mother and family are yet to make an official response. Ben Crump, a lawyer for the family, wrote on Twitter that the failure to charge any officer for killing Taylor was “outrageous and offensive”.

According to the New York Times, protesters who gathered in downtown Louisville to hear the announcement “shrieked in disgust” after the charges were announced.

“They were particularly upset that the only officer charged was required to post a bond of just US$15,000” and yelled “That’s it?” said the NYT.

“One person called for the crowd to burn the city down. A woman sitting on a chair with a T-shirt printed with Ms. Taylor’s image had to be consoled by several people."

Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American activist, told the NYT as she wiped tears from her face: “It tells people, cops can kill you in the sanctity of your own home.”

Local resident Desaray Yarbrough told the NYT the attorney general’s announcement would do nothing to quell angry demonstrators.

“It’s unjustifiable,” Yarbrough said. “The lack of charges is getting ready to bring the city down.”

The anger, including any property damage, is justifiable self-defence from police terror and violence.

Attempts by Trump and his backers, as well as establishment pro-police Democrats, to blame protesters for any violence, is being rejected by the movement.

Blame the victims

Who is responsible, given the cops have been declared “innocent”?

“The decision before my office is not to decide if the loss of Breonna Taylor’s life was a tragedy — the answer to that question is unequivocally yes,” Cameron said.

He later added: “If we simply act on outrage, there is no justice — mob justice is not justice. Justice sought by violence is not justice. It just becomes revenge.”

In other words, Taylor is to blame for her own death. Not the plain-clothes cops who broke into her apartment with a no-knock warrant and who did not identify themselves (only 1 of 12 eyewitnesses said they did).

The cops were seen as “intruders”. Taylor’s boyfriend, who legally owned a gun, shot at them. The police said the cops had a right to “self-defence”. The boyfriend was initially arrested.

In this country, gun rights only apply to white people. Cops have complete immunity. This decision means that not only did Taylor’s life not matter but all Black women and men are seen as a threat by cops.

It means police can shoot anyone and declare “self-defence” and get away with murder. It is not new.

After months of mass protests around the country for Black lives, it shows the state will use its police and armed forces against Black people. And the legal system will protect the killers.

Only a week ago, the city of Louisville paid blood money to the Taylor family in a civil lawsuit. The $12 million payout is the highest ever for the death of a Black woman by cops.

This came because of mass protests, 2.3 million petition signatures, 100,000 phone calls and a global uprising demanding “Justice for our sister, Breonna Taylor”.

Yet, no justice was served.

It is a wake-up call that only mass demonstrations ‒ today, tomorrow and in the future ‒ can pressure governments, police forces and ruling parties to divest from the police and initiate radical oversight by the people they claim to serve.

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