US protesters demand justice a year after Breonna Taylor killing
Rally in Louisville as US President Joe Biden urges Congress to pass ‘meaningful police reform’.
Hundreds of demonstrators have rallied in the US city of Louisville, demanding justice on the anniversary of the death of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman who was shot and killed by police during a botched raid of her apartment.
Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, led the crowds marching on Saturday behind a large purple banner with an illustration of the young woman’s face, chanting “No justice, no peace.”
“We got two different Americas. We got one for Black Americans and one for white Americans,” Benjamin Crump, a lawyer representing Taylor’s family, told the demonstrators.
“We got to get justice for all our people in America.”
Taylor’s death, along with the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, sparked huge protests against police abuses and racism across the United States last year. But 12 months after the killing, only one of three police officers involved in the raid has been charged, and only for endangering Taylor’s neighbours by firing wildly into an adjacent apartment.
US President Joe Biden on Saturday declared his support for police reforms.
“Breonna Taylor’s death was a tragedy, a blow to her family, her community, and America,” he said in a tweet. “As we continue to mourn her, we must press ahead to pass meaningful police reform in Congress. I remain committed to signing a landmark reform bill into law.”
The Louisville rally came a day after Kenneth Walker, Taylor’s boyfriend, filed a federal lawsuit against the city’s Metro Police Department, alleging his constitutional rights were violated during last year’s raid, news outlets reported.
Walker last year filed a continuing state lawsuit against the city and police, saying he was the victim of assault, battery, false arrest and malicious prosecution.
Taylor’s front door was breached by Louisville officers as part of a drug raid in the early morning hours of March 13, 2020. Walker fired his gun once, saying later that he feared an intruder was entering the apartment. One officer was struck, and he and two other officers fired 32 shots into the apartment, striking Taylor five times.
Taylor’s death initially flew under the media radar, as the COVID-19 crisis shut down society, but Floyd’s death in Minnesota and the release of a chilling 911 call from Walker in late May sparked interest in the case.
Police had a no-knock warrant but said they knocked and announced their presence before entering Taylor’s apartment, a claim some witnesses have disputed. No drugs were found in Taylor’s apartment.
A Kentucky judge last week signed an order permanently closing a criminal case against Walker for firing at the officer.
Walker referenced the closure of the case against him during Saturday’s rally.
“I gotta say that’s a nice start, but that’s not where we finish,” Walker said. “We’ve got to keep going.”
A continuing federal investigation could be wide-ranging and is regarded by many as the last chance for justice for Taylor’s death. In a statement on Saturday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it has “made significant progress in the investigation” despite the COVID-19 pandemic presenting “several unexpected obstacles”. The Bureau remained “steadfast in its commitment to bringing this investigation to its appropriate conclusion,” the statement said.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fisher said his city has made significant reforms in policies and priorities, but that there was still “a good deal of work ahead”.
Taylor’s “death resonates still in our city and around the world, underscoring the need to reform systems and act more urgently to advance racial justice and equity,” he said on Twitter.
Protests were also held in other US cities to mark Taylor’s death, including in Atlanta and New York.
Isaac Bryan, executive director of the UCLA Black Policy Project, told Al Jazeera the failure to indict the police officers involved in Taylor’s death showed “how our justice system treats accountability differently for different communities”.
“You can lose your life at home in your bed, and still have your partner have charges filed against them sooner than the law enforcement officers who misguidedly fired into your bedroom,” he told Al Jazeera from Los Angeles in California. “And we need to think very critically about that.”
Wide-ranging action was needed, he said. In addition to the passage of the police reform bill before the US Congress, “we have to elect, we have to support and defend progressive prosecutors and we have to elect progressives up and down the ballot,” he said. “We need folks who will fight for justice, who have a history of fighting for justice. We need to be bold in the leadership we choose to represent us.”