More than 120 people were arrested overnight in the US city of Louisville, officials confirmed Thursday, as the announcement that no one would be charged with the killing of Breonna Taylor sent fresh demands for racial justice billowing across the US.
Protests were held in cities including New York, Washington and Los Angeles Wednesday, but the focal point was Taylor’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, where the 26-year-old black woman was shot dead in her apartment by police earlier this year.
Thousands of people flooded the city’s streets to demand justice for the emergency room technician, who has become a symbol for the Black Lives Matter movement, after a grand jury said it had decided not to charge anyone with her killing.
But the demonstrations — which began peacefully — quickly degenerated into violence as protesters clashed with authorities in riot gear and using flashbang grenades.
Two police officers were shot in the confrontation. Both survived and were hospitalized in stable condition, authorities said.
“There was a total of 127 arrests during the protest last evening into early this morning,” police department spokesman Dwight Mitchell told AFP.
Among them was a suspect in the shooting of the police officers, local media reported. One conservative outlet, the Daily Caller, said two of its journalists were also among those detained.
Taylor was shot dead on March 13 after three plainclothes policemen appeared at her door in the middle of the night to execute a search warrant.
More than six months later, a grand jury on Wednesday charged detective Brett Hankison with three counts of “wanton endangerment” over shots fired into adjoining apartments.
But neither Hankison nor the two officers who fired the shots that killed Taylor were charged in direct connection with her death.
“Nothing seems to say that Breonna mattered,” her family’s lawyer Ben Crump told NBC’s Today Show Thursday in response to the verdict.
Top US athletes who have backed the Black Lives Matter movement added their voices to the wave of dismay. “Something was done, but it wasn’t enough,” Los Angeles Lakers guard Danny Green told reporters Wednesday.
Louisville remains under curfew Thursday and Friday from 9:00 pm until 6:30 am, with much of downtown closed to traffic, and several shops boarded up in anticipation of more violence in the city of 600,000.
Although the city center was calm on Thursday morning, Marcus Reede, a 52-year-old barbecue restaurant owner, was braced for more trouble ahead.
“There’s going to be more violence tonight,” he told AFP. “People are tired.”
– ‘Stick together’ –
President Donald Trump, who is campaigning for reelection on a “law-and-order” platform and has repeatedly stoked fears about violence, tweeted that he was “praying” for the officers who were shot.
Seething protests have rocked America’s cities for months, with the movement’s anger fed by a stream of deaths of black people at the hands of police, and exacerbated by badly fractured national politics and inflammatory rhetoric by Trump.
“Breonna Taylor deserves justice,” 17-year-old black protester Decorryn Adams told AFP in Louisville. “Nothing will change if we don’t stick together.”
Taylor’s boyfriend, who was in bed with her on the night she was killed, exchanged fire with the officers, who he said he thought were criminals.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said the two officers who had fired the shots that killed Taylor had done so in self-defense, and would therefore not be charged.
“This is a tragedy,” Cameron said, adding that he knew “not everyone will be satisfied.”
The officers, who had not activated their body cameras as required, shot Taylor multiple times.
Cameron also contradicted reports that the police officers had executed a “no-knock” search warrant on Taylor’s home, bursting in without warning.
“They did knock and announce,” he said, citing a witness.
The city of Louisville settled a wrongful death suit with Taylor’s family for $12 million last week.
The civil settlement reflected the public pressure and emotion surrounding her death, which came about two months before that of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis, sparking nationwide anger.