Felony rioting charges have been dropped against a Kentucky legislator and others arrested last month during protests demanding justice for Breonna Taylor.
Prosecutors lacked the evidence to continue pursuing the rioting charges against state Representative Attica Scott and 17 others, Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell said during an arraignment hearing in Louisville, Kentucky on Tuesday.
Afterward, Scott told supporters gathered outside that the arrests would not deter them from speaking out for Taylor, saying, “We will turn our protests into policy.” She has unveiled legislation to ban no-knock search warrants in Kentucky and impose new requirements on police practices.
“These charges will not stop us. It will not stop the revolution,” Scott said Tuesday before leading the crowd in chanting: “You can’t stop the revolution.”
Police had said Scott was in a group last month that was ordered to disperse but failed to do so. Members of the group damaged multiple buildings, including setting fire to a library, police said.
The Democratic legislator has called the charges “ludicrous”, telling reporters the day after her arrest that there was “no way” she would have tried to damage the library.
During Tuesday’s hearing, O’Connell said there was evidence of property damage to buses and the library on the night of September 24 when Scott and the others were arrested.
But he added, “We would need clear-cut evidence that these individuals before you today were working with those who committed that property damage. The evidence we have reviewed thus far does not support that.”
Proceeding with the rioting charges would not be a “just outcome for these defendants”, he said.
Misdemeanour charges of unlawful assembly and failure to disperse are still pending against Scott and other defendants. Prosecutors need more time to review those charges, O’Connell said.
Scott said Tuesday that she and others will be back in court next month to “fight these bogus misdemeanour charges”.
Scott was among hundreds of people protesting in downtown Louisville after grand jury hearings into Taylor’s death led to no charges against police officers for shooting into the Black woman’s apartment and killing her during a March drug raid.
A single officer was charged for firing into a neighbouring apartment. No drugs were found in Taylor’s residence.
Scott was arrested as she headed to a church that offered sanctuary to protesters.
Scott, who is Black, has said her arrest makes her more determined to push for her criminal-justice legislation. The measure, if enacted, would be called “Breonna’s Law”. She plans to offer the bill when Kentucky’s Republican-controlled legislature reconvenes early next year.
Another Democratic legislator, state Representative Lisa Willner, has said she is working on legislation that would narrow the scope of Kentucky’s rioting statute in response to her colleague’s arrest. The proposal would protect people from being charged with first-degree rioting if they are present but do not engage in destructive or violent actions.