A diverse crowd of hundreds marched in Louisville’s streets chanting “Black Lives Matter” on Saturday night, the fourth night of protests after a grand jury declined to charge officers in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor.
People in the crowd also chanted “No justice, no peace” as cars honked along a busy downtown artery in this Kentucky city that has seen more than 120 days of demonstrations over the death of the 26-year-old Black woman in a police raid gone wrong.
Keep readinglist of 4 items
A few police cars followed behind, with officers telling protesters to stay on the sidewalk and out of the street before the march ended. Many briefly ended up back at a downtown square that has been a focal point of protests.
But as the curfew time (9pm on Saturday or 01:00 GMT on Sunday) approached, a police loudspeaker announced that anyone who remained in the park would be arrested for a curfew violation. The square emptied out as people departed, many dispersing, though one group headed to a nearby church where protesters had found refuge on previous nights.
As a crowd gathered outside the First Unitarian Church late on Saturday, fires were set in a street nearby after 11pm (03:00 GMT). Police said fireworks burned a car, and windows had been broken at Spalding University and Presentation Academy buildings close by.
Some demonstrators were seen with makeshift shields made of plywood. Others took shelter inside the church, which closed its doors around midnight.
About 100 people remained inside the church, Jud Hendrix, executive director of Interfaith Paths to Peace, told WDRB-TV about 1am on Sunday. Hendrix said he was working with the police to determine if people could leave the church to go home without being arrested.
“People inside the church were asked to remain there while police were conducting the investigation and securing the area,” the police department said in a tweet, sharing an aerial and ground video of the fires that were set, windows that were broken and graffiti that had been spray painted.
As of the 2:20am tweet, 28 people had been arrested, the police department said. Later, the police corrected the number of people arrested to 25.
A previous protest on Friday night was peaceful, though police arrested 22 people for curfew violations. A police spokesman said some were also charged with failure to disperse.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer had urged continued peaceful protests in an appearance at a news conference on Saturday evening.
“I’m mindful that many in our community are hurting and angry about the decisions announced this week,” Fischer said. The mayor said he supports protesters’ First Amendment rights to protest though “we just ask you to do that peacefully please”.
Taylor was shot multiple times on March 13 after her boyfriend fired at officers who had entered her home during a drugs raid by white officers, authorities said. Taylor’s boyfriend said he did not know who was coming in and fired in self-defence, wounding one officer.
On Wednesday, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced a grand jury indicted one officer on wanton endangerment charges, saying he fired gunshots into a neighbouring home during the raid that did not strike anyone. That officer has been fired.
Cameron said the other officers were not charged with Taylor’s killing because they acted to protect themselves.
Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, visited a downtown park on Friday with family and her lawyers and called on Kentucky officials to release all body camera footage, police files and the transcripts of the grand jury proceedings.
Palmer said in a statement read by a family member that she felt the criminal justice system had failed her. Palmer marched at the head of Friday’s protest march.
The grand jury’s ruling weighed heavily on protesters like Amber Brown. A central figure in the downtown demonstrations, Brown said she was angry.
“It feels like we went backward,” she said on Friday night. “I think people are still in shock and we’re not sure how to move forward.”
Brown criticised the police crackdown in the downtown area that has been in effect since early in the week.
“People are afraid to exercise their First Amendment right,” she said. “Since when does protest have a curfew? Since when does freedom and civil rights have a curfew?”