LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Thousands of protesters calling for justice in the Breonna Taylor case took to their streets, bridges and neighborhoods across the USA on Friday, demanding action as scores of police in riot gear surrounded them to quell civil unrest.
Hundreds of protesters again gathered in downtown Louisville on Friday for another night of protests. Before and after the Louisville’s 9 p.m. curfew went into effect, police and protesters clashed.
In one incident police said they used flash bangs and made two arrests because people did not get on the sidewalk when asked to allow traffic to flow.
Meanwhile in New York City a group held a sit-in on the bridge for more than an hour. There, they took a knee in the middle of the bridge to honor Taylor, according to local news outlets and social media posts.
Taylor’s death has gained increasing international attention after Wednesday’s announcement that no officers would be indicted for her death. In Louisville, peaceful protests escalated as anger boiled over: windows were smashed, small fires set and two police officers were shot.
Some downtown Louisville business have chosen to close through weekend due to damage caused during the ongoing protests. A citywide curfew, criticized by The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, went into effect Wednesday and will run from 9 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. each day until Monday morning.
Earlier Friday, members of Taylor’s family and their attorneys called on Kentucky’s attorney general to release the transcripts of the grand jury proceedings.
Taylor, a 26-year-old ER technician, was killed shortly before 1 a.m. on March 13 when officers came to her apartment looking for drugs and cash as part of a larger narcotics investigation connected to her former boyfriend. She was shot six times.
A grand jury on Wednesday indicted former Louisville officer Brett Hankison on wanton endangerment for firing shots that went into a neighbor’s apartment where three people were home. Hankison was fired in June.
Protests in Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and other cities
While Louisville has been an epicenter for protests calling for racial justice this week, more than a dozen cities across the country have seen demonstrations as well.
In Chicago on Friday, dozens of people gathered in the South Side neighborhood of South Shore and marched to a nearby police station. The group convened to celebrate what would have been the 23rd birthday of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old shot by an officer 16 times. Attendees released 400 balloons, representing the number of days it took the city to release dash cam video of the shooting.
In Boston, thousands of people marched from a park to police headquarters on Friday night, holding “Black Lives Matter” flags and posters, chanting “the people, united, will never be defeated.” Gov. Charlie Baker activated the Massachusetts National Guard in advance of protests expected over the weekend.
In Philadelphia, dozens of protesters — mostly college students — held a march and vigil for Taylor. The group set up a makeshift memorial, placed flowers before her portrait and lit several candles, according to local news outlets.
Smaller pockets of protesters were reported in Kansas City and Providence. In Albuquerque, a car rammed through a crowd of protesters, according to a local reporter who shared video of the incident to Twitter and a protester who spoke to USA TODAY.
“It just went straight into the middle of the crowd and veered off toward the left,” said Samantha Colombo, 25, an Albuquerque resident. Colombo said that no one she knew of was hurt.
Colombo said she had been protesting for three nights in a row, since the charging announcement. “Then they didn’t actually convict any cops. I hope cops are held to the fullest extent of the law, and I hope protests across the country make that happen.”
Sit-in on the Brooklyn Bridge
In New York City, hundreds marched through Brooklyn, chanting “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now,” according to local media reports and videos shared to social media. Dozens marched onto the Brooklyn Bridge and took a knee in the middle of the bridge to honor Taylor. The group held a sit-in on the bridge for more than an hour before marching back toward Brooklyn, escorted by dozens of cops in riot gear.
Protesters joined in group chants demanding that the New York Police Department not send officers to calls of mental health emergencies and that schools “no longer call the police on their children.”
“These are our demands that must be met,” dozens on the bridge shouted, echoing the words of a woman holding a speakerphone. “Until they are met there will be no peace. No justice, no peace.”
Louisville protesters vow to continue making the city ‘uncomfortable’
Tamika Palmer — Taylor’s mother, who earlier said she was “mad, pissed, upset, hurt” over Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s Wednesday grand jury announcement — joined several hundred people who marched in Louisville earlier Friday.
At the downtown park where protesters have gathered nightly since May 28, people sang, watered flowers in the memorial area and played piano. Some provided food and water. Adria Johnson was encouraging people to register to vote.
“We will make sure that this city as uncomfortable as it can be,” Tamika Mallory, of the group Until Freedom, said Friday, later leading marchers holding a purple banner reading “Justice for Breonna Taylor.”
Along downtown streets as evening fell, where nearly 25 square blocks were still barricaded from traffic amid a state of emergency, several hundred marchers raised fists as cars honked in support.
By 6:55 p.m., police had declared the march unlawful and flash-bang explosions went off.
– Chris Kenning
Louisville Congressman condemns police for arresting Attica Scott
U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, a Louisville Democrat, took to Twitter Friday afternoon to criticize the Louisville Metro Police for arresting state Rep. Attica Scott Thursday evening and for charging her with first-degree rioting.
Scott “has done more to lift our community up and bring us together in recent weeks than many in Frankfort seem to get done in entire terms of service,” Yarmuth said.
“To accost, accuse, arrest, & charge her with setting fire to a library of all things—apparently minutes before the curfew was even in effect—is as stupid as it is untrue. Using guilt by association as grounds for arrest is yet another reason why the system needs profound change.”
Louisville mayor: Violence ‘will not be tolerated’
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said Friday that “violence and destruction will not be tolerated” during a media briefing.
“I know that most protesters continue to be peaceful and lawful,” Fischer said. “But I want to caution the peaceful protesters: If you’re in a group where disruptive and violent behavior is happening, you need to separate from that group, or you will be subject to arrest.”
Damage done to Louisville library, police report looting
Due to damage being done Thursday night, an unlawful assembly was declared prior to curfew, said Louisville Metro Police Department interim chief of police Robert Schroeder.
Schroeder said police responded to broken windows and the tossing of a flare into a Louisville public library downtown. During that time, protesters gathered nearby at First Unitarian Church, where the church allowed them to stay.
Schroeder said police kept the area secured as assessed the library. Once that was completed, police and protesters worked together to establish a plan so that protesters could leave the church.
Schroeder said that once protest activity had concluded for the evening, there were several incidents of looting throughout Jefferson County. He said police responded to 15 burglaries and one hold up of a business.
“Once again I’m asking the community to adhere to the curfew put in place to minimize this type of criminal activity,” Schroeder said. That curfew, which went into effect Wednesday, will run from 9 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. each day until Monday morning.
Suspect accused of shooting Louisville officers pleads not guilty; bond set at $1 million
Larynzo Johnson, the man accused of shooting and injuring two Louisville Metro Police Department officers amid protests Wednesday night, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Friday morning.
Johnson, 26, is charged with two counts of first-degree assault on a police officer and 14 counts of wanton endangerment related to a police officer.
Bond was set at $1 million, up from the initial amount of $750,000, said R. Zachary Meihaus, an attorney who represented Johnson for the arraignment only. He added that Johnson will be appointed a public defender.
Meihaus declined to comment on the merits of the case, but he pointed to the different ways Johnson and the three officers involved in the Breonna Taylor shooting have been treated by the criminal justice system.
“The level of care and investigation that was given to the officers involved in Breonna Taylor’s shooting prior to any indictments coming down, if Larynzo Johnson was afforded that same courtesy, he would not be sitting in custody charged the 14 counts of wanton endangerment, two counts of assault (first degree) with a $1 million bond,” he said. “I mean, that’s about the most I can tell you. And that’s how I feel.”
– Lucas Aulbach and Matt Mencarini
Kentucky lawmaker released from jail
A high-profile Louisville Democratic state lawmaker and a well-known Black activist were released from jail Friday morning after police arrested them Thursday night during Breonna Taylor protests in downtown Louisville.
State Rep. Attica Scott and Shameka Parrish-Wright are charged with first-degree rioting — a felony — along with failure to disperse and unlawful assembly, both misdemeanors.
“The allegations are outrageous on their face,” said Ted Shouse, Parrish-Wright’s lawyer.
Police arrested at least 24 protesters, the department said late Thursday. All but one of them were arrested near the Louisville Free Public Library downtown, where around 9 p.m., someone broke a window and threw a flare into the building, Courier Journal reporter Sarah Ladd said.
Shouse said neither Parrish-Wright nor Scott had anything to do damaging the library.
“If you arrest the loudest voices fighting racial injustice in Louisville, we have to believe you want to silence the fight against racial injustice,” State Rep. Josie Raymond tweeted Thursday night, calling for Scott and Parrish-Wright to be released.
Scott — who is sponsoring a bill to end no-knock warrants like the one used the night Taylor was shot and killed by police in Kentucky — has been a frequent presence at demonstrations throughout the summer.
Parrish-Wright is a leader for the Louisville chapter of the Bail Project, which has helped protesters post bond and get out of jail over the past four months of demonstrations.
– Olivia Krauth
Contributing: N’dea Yancey-Bragg and Andrew Wolfson; The Associated Press