Louisville, Ky. — At least seven people were shot as hundreds of protesters in downtown Louisville gathered to demand justice for Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old Louisville ER tech who was shot and killed by Louisville Metro Police in March.
Some shots were heard on scene just before 11:30 p.m., and a police spokeswoman confirmed the injuries at 1 a.m. in a statement. Two victims required surgery.
“There have been some arrests, but at this time we are not able to tell you how many as the situation is ongoing,” the statement from spokeswoman Alicia Smiley said. “Information on those arrests will be available tomorrow through court records of the arrests.”
Police officers did not fire their guns, Smiley said.
Chants of “no justice, no peace” echoed through the streets as night fell and the hundreds who gathered traveled down Jefferson and Main streets. What started as a peaceful protest in the evening escalated as the night drew on, with the crowd being teargassed and glass storefronts shattered. As heavy rains moved into the area in the early morning hours, much of the crowd dispersed.
The protests in Louisville unfurled as other cities saw similar demonstrations over police killings of black Americans, including in Phoenix, Denver and Minneapolis, where a man named George Floyd died after an officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck. Floyd’s death was captured on camera, igniting a reaction across the nation.
As the situation in downtown Louisville escalated, Taylor’s family took to social media to plead for peace.
“We are not going to stop until we get justice,” Juniyah Palmer, Taylor’s younger sister, said in a video. “But we should stop tonight before people get hurt.”
Jessie Halladay, a spokeswoman for LMPD, briefly addressed the media via video chat, saying, “this is not what we want for our city.”
“What we are seeing tonight in this community is the obvious frustration and tension between police and residents,” Halladay said. “What started out as a peaceful protest earlier this evening is now escalating into property damage, more aggressive action and we’ve just heard reports of shots fired in the crowd.
“We have a lot to work through in this community as a police department and as residents, together, but this is not the way.”
Mayor Greg Fischer first commented on the protests just before midnight, sharing a post from Taylor’s family, which called for peace.
“Understandably, emotions are high,” he said. “As Breonna’s mother says, let’s be peaceful as we work toward truth and justice.”
Several streets are closed to car traffic, including the Second Street Bridge. LMPD, which has said it is monitoring the protest, has asked the public to avoid the area around Second Street due to the “large crowd.”
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Halladay said police have used “great restraint throughout the evening” as protesters blocked traffic.
But, as the protest entered its fourth or fifth hour, the situation escalated. Some in the crowd tried to flip an what appeared to be an ambulance or prison transport vehicle. There were reports of tear gas being used, though Halladay was not able to confirm that during her apperance.
“Our goal all evening has been to try to allow a peaceful demonstration,” Halladay said. “I think we were doing that quite successfully. The crowd has moved around downtown in several ways, we have not engaged.”
Palmer, Taylor’s younger sister, wrote a statement on Facebook pleading for peace as protests escalated downtown.
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“We are so grateful for everyone giving Bre a voice tonight, for saying her name, for demanding truth, for demanding justice and for demanding accountability,” Palmer wrote. “Please keep demanding this. But please keep it peaceful. Do not succumb to the levels that we see out of the police. Speak. Protest. But do not resort to violence. We demand change. We demand reform. But we do not need for our community to get hurt. We need for our community to get justice.”
Here’s what we know:
- An estimated 500 to 600 protesters have gathered in the streets of downtown Louisville for several hours.
- The gathering began as early as 6 or 7 p.m. and stretched past midnight.
- Taylor’s death is a popular rallying cry for those gathered, with cries of “Say her name!” and “Breonna Taylor.”
- Crowds moved from outside City Hall on Sixth Street to in front of the KFC Yum Center, where more police officers began to engage with the crowd.
- Protesters largely remained peaceful for much of the night, though some have thrown rocks or kicked police cars, and a statue was damaged early on.
- Officers appear to be wearing body armor and face shields and carrying batons. It is unknown how many officers were called in to the protest.