The Coalition for Justice and Freedom, one of many groups organizing the protest, said the protesters were aiming to divert attention from America’s most famous horse race to Taylor’s case.
“The eyes of the world will be on Louisville, like every year during the Derby. It has been almost six months since Taylor was assassinated and there has been no justice or information to come out, ”Timothy Findley, a founder of the coalition, told CNN.
Louisville Subway Police Department officers gunned down Taylor on March 13 while executing a “no knock” search warrant at her apartment. Shots erupted after her boyfriend fired a warning shot because he believed the plainclothes officers were intruders. The 26-year-old EMT, who was unarmed, was killed in a barrage of gunfire.
“We know there are some who disagree with our decision to host the Kentucky Derby this year,” said a statement from racetrack officials. “We respect that point of view, but made our decision believing that traditions can remind us of what unites us as Americans, even as we seek to recognize and heal the terrible pain that separates us. ”
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said the city supports the protesters’ First Amendment rights, but called for them to remain peaceful and not block traffic.
“Racial justice is a goal we all support. And we support First Amendment rights, ”Fischer said Wednesday. “We just need to strike a balance between the right to protest and our essential duty to preserve public safety. ”
Uniformed police officers have already started lining up in downtown Louisville, where heated clashes between protesters and counter-protesters have been taking place since late this morning.
Police will summon or arrest anyone blocking traffic, creating unsafe road conditions or entering private property against the owner’s wishes, the city said on its website Friday. Anyone who commits acts of violence or vandalism will be arrested, he added.
The Kentucky attorney general’s office said on Saturday it was “continuing to move forward” with its investigation into Taylor’s death.
“Today, as we honor a KY tradition with the holding of the Derby, we remain aware of the community’s desire for answers in the investigation into the death of Ms Breonna Taylor,” tweeted Attorney General Daniel Cameron.
Groups clash during the demonstration
Louisville subway police split up two protest groups earlier in the day, police officials tweeted.
Far-right activists and self-proclaimed militiamen, many of whom were armed, carried Trump flags and demonstrated in support of the police, according to videos from the scene.
A group of 200 to 300 protesters gathered in Cox Park for a rally contacted another group in Jefferson Square. The two groups clashed, “mostly engaging in shouting and talking,” police said.
In anticipation of the protests in the Churchill Downs area, the bulk of the Louisville metro police resources are being staged near the race track where the Kentucky Derby will be held tonight, according to the department.
“Due to the size of the crowd, we determined that it was not safe to enter and we did not want to escalate the situation with the presence of the police,” according to a department statement. “Therefore, it was better to stage, call for additional resources to come downtown and see what developed. The two groups continued to engage, working to go their separate ways.
When tensions between the two groups finally eased, officers created a barrier to keep them apart until one of the groups moved away.