Consternation over Breonna Taylor spreads through American streets

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LOUISVILLE, KY. – Anger, frustration and sadness over the decision not to charge Kentucky police officers for the death of Breonna Taylor has spilled onto American streets as protesters attacked a criminal justice system that, according to them, is stacked against blacks. Violence gripped protests in her hometown of Louisville as gunfire rang out and injured two police officers. Activists, celebrities and ordinary Americans have been calling for charges since Taylor, an emergency medical worker, was shot and killed by white agents who entered her home during a narcotics investigation in March. While the officers had an arrest warrant, the investigation showed they had announced themselves before entering, said state attorney general Daniel Cameron, a Republican and the first black attorney of the ‘State.

A grand jury on Wednesday returned three gratuitous endangerment charges against sacked officer Brett Hankison for shooting at a house next to Taylor with people inside.

Hundreds of protesters chanted Taylor’s name and marched through cities including New York, Washington, DC, Philadelphia and Las Vegas. People gathered in Millennium Park in downtown Chicago, chanting demands for justice as passing drivers on Michigan Avenue honked their horns. Authorities unleashed chemical agents on some protesters after they attempted to board a SWAT vehicle in Atlanta and others were arrested.

While the protests in Louisville had been largely peaceful, scuffles broke out between police and protesters and some people were arrested before the two officers were shot as they investigated reports of beatings. fire Wednesday night.

Acting Police Chief Robert Schroeder said a suspect was in custody but did not give details of that person’s participation in the protests. He said the two officers should recover and one of them was undergoing surgery.

Taylor’s case has exposed the wide divide between public opinion about justice for those who kill black Americans and the laws under which these officers are charged, which routinely favor the police and do not often result in heavy criminal charges. .

Carmen Jones demonstrated in downtown Louisville every day for nearly three months. She said she felt hopeless after the grand jury decision and didn’t know what was to come next.

“We are tired of being hashtags. We are tired of paying for history in our blood and in our bodies and being told to respond to this violence and aggression with peace, ”she said. “We did it the Martin way all summer, and it got us nowhere.

Jones said his last hope is that their protest will bring about system-wide change in the United States. But the decision in Taylor’s case made him feel that his life didn’t matter in America.

“I don’t think I’ll ever sleep the same way again, because it would happen to any of us,” she said. “The system doesn’t care about black people. The system creaks blacks and spits us out. ”

With George Floyd, a black man killed by police in Minneapolis in May, Taylor’s name has become a rallying cry in nationwide protests that have drawn attention to entrenched racism and demanded reform of the police. Taylor’s image was painted in the streets, adorned with protest panels and screen-printed on t-shirts worn by celebrities.

The FBI is still investigating potential violations of federal law in connection with the raid on Taylor’s home on March 13.

After the announcement in Kentucky, Ben Crump, an attorney for Taylor’s family, denounced the decision as “scandalous and offensive.” The demonstrators shouted: “No justice, no peace! Took to the streets, while others sat quietly and cried.

Morgan Julianna Lee, a high school student from Charlotte, North Carolina, watched the ad at her home.

“It’s almost like a slap in the face,” the 15-year-old said over the phone. “If I, as a black woman, ever need justice, I will never get it. ”

The authorities themselves have also expressed their dismay. At a press conference, Cameron, the Attorney General, said: “The criminal law is not meant to answer every heartache and grief.”

“But my heart breaks for the loss of Miss Taylor. … My mother, if anything happened to me, would find it very hard, ”he added, choking.

However, Cameron said officers acted in self-defense after Taylor’s boyfriend shot at them. Kenneth Walker told police he heard gunshots but did not know who was coming in and fired in self-defense.

The warrant was linked to a suspect who did not live there and no drugs were found inside. The city has since banned such warrants.

“Under Kentucky law, the use of force by (Officers Jonathan) Mattingly and (Myles) Cosgrove was justified for self-protection,” he said. “This rationale prevents us from pursuing criminal charges for the death of Miss Breonna Taylor. ”

At a press conference, Trump read a statement from Cameron, saying “justice is not often easy.” He later tweeted that he was “praying for the two policemen who were shot.”

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his vice president Kamala Harris have called for police reform.

Biden says if a federal investigation continues, “we don’t need to wait for the final judgment of this investigation to do more to do justice to Breonna.” He said the country should start by tackling excessive force, outlawing strangulations and revising the strike ban warrants.

“We must never stop speaking Breonna’s name as we work to reform our justice system, including the review of the strike ban warrants,” Harris said on Twitter.

Hankison was fired on June 23, and his three gratuitous endangerment charges each carry a sentence of up to five years. A dismissal letter said he violated due process by showing “extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he fired “deliberately and indiscriminately” with his weapon.

CNN reported that its attorney, David Leightty, declined to comment.

Last week, the city settled a lawsuit against the three police officers brought by Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, agreeing to pay her US $ 12 million and enact police reforms.

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Lovan reported from Frankfort, Kentucky. Associated Press editors Claire Galofaro, Bruce Schreiner and Rebecca Reynolds Yonker in Louisville, Kentucky, Kevin Freking in Washington, Aaron Morrison in New York, and Haleluya Hadero in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, contributed.

Hudsbeth Blackburn is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative corps. Report for America is a national, nonprofit service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on secret issues.

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