LOUISVILLE—Protests over prosecutors failing to indict any cops for the March killing of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor flared up again here Thursday, even as the city was still picking up the pieces from an explosive night of violence and unrest.
Less than 24 hours after Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a conservative Trump ally, declined to charge officers for fatally shooting Taylor, a Black emergency medical worker, during a botched attempt to serve a warrant, activists were out in force in Jefferson Square Park.
Dozens cheered as protesters were released from a side door at the Department of Corrections adjacent the square—over 100 were arrested a night earlier—to chants of “You can’t stop the revolution,” and “Whose streets? Our streets!” in call and reply.
In addition to trademarks of police brutality protests in recent months like mass arrests and pepper-spray being dispersed on activists, the Wednesday unrest in Louisville was marked by the non-fatal shooting of two officers. Both were expected to survive, and a 26-year-old suspect was in custody. But protesters weren’t exactly cowed.
“That shooting was wrong,” said Patrick McKinney, a Louisville native and teacher for kids with cognitive disabilities for Jefferson County Public Schools. But, he added: “We waited how many days to get a decision on her life? So whose life mattered more?”
Around 7:15 p.m., throngs of protesters stopped to confront armed members of the Oath Keepers—a far-right militia group—who said they had been asked to protect a gas station and pawn shop downtown. Activists got up in the heavily armed men’s faces outside a Hampton Inn.
“Women and children get to the back. They have firearms, serious firepower,” one organizer yelled.
Protesters screamed expletives at the armed band, but organizers pleaded for calm, and violence was avoided when activists streamed out of the area. The crowds calmed, their chants broken up by the ever-present sound of helicopters.
“These young people wanted to meet up with the militias, and it seemed like it was about to be bad,” said Pastor Milton Seymore, 73, of Energized Baptist Church in the city. “I know people are upset. It’s been 120 days we’ve been out here. But we don’t want to give anyone an excuse to shoot us.”
Nicole Williams, a Houston, Texas, native who said she had been back and forth between there and Louisville as part of the Say Her Name bike ride, was less measured in her response to the attack on cops a night earlier.
“I don’t give a fuck—fuck them. They’re still alive and Breonna Taylor is dead,” she told The Daily Beast, adding, “No matter how many officers are killed, that doesn’t even the score.”
As curfew set in at 9 p.m., hundreds of protesters massed outside First Unitarian Church in downtown Louisville, and some of them streamed inside in hopes of avoiding arrest after the church doors swung open.
Dozens of Louisville Metro Police Officers and Jefferson County Sheriffs officers in riot gear stood nearby, apparently blocking the protesters' path on all sides. “We thought we were going to be able to leave,” said Destiny Walker, 18, who drove two hours from Indiana to take part in the protest. “We had no clue.”
Arrests were made as all signs pointed to a tense standoff between police and protesters, and state Rep. Attica Scott—who authored a bill to stop using no-knock warrants like the one used in the Breonna Taylor case—was among those taken into custody.
But around 11 p.m., police pulled back and allowed demonstrators to leave the area.