Metro Louisville

Ammoni Gomez held a flapping Black Lives Matter flag and posed for a photo. The eight-year-old’s elder brother, Martez Isreal, snapped the picture, and then they switched places.

The boys were among the hundreds who gathered to protest Saturday at Jefferson Square Park, the epicenter of Louisville’s demonstrations against racial injustice and police brutality.

Protesters continued to march throughout downtown Louisville this weekend in response to the police killing of Breonna Taylor and the lack of charges levied against the officers involved for her death. By 2 a.m., police had made 28 arrests.

The two boys came to Saturday’s demonstration with their grandmother, Anne Grady.

Martez was admittedly a bit nervous at first.

“On Facebook and stuff it said there was mace and teargas and stuff,” he said.

But when he got here, he was surprised.

Like, it’s peaceful in here,” he said.

The boys liked the message from the crowd that Black Lives Matter and that Black people like themselves deserve justice.

Ask the boys what they want to be when they grow up, and it depends. Martez said if the quarantine lasts forever, he wants to be an online video streamer. If not, he wants to be a professional basketball player. Ammoni said he wants to be a pro football player.

Ask them what it’ll take to reach those goals and Ammoni shrugs his shoulders.

“I don’t know, grow up?” he said.

This is where their grandmother chimes in to say that in order to see their dreams come true the boys will have to grow up. They’ll have to live. That, in essence, is why she is here at the protest.

“Because I have to sit down and teach them how to survive interactions with the police,” she said. “And as long as I have to teach them that, I have to be out here.”

Parents and grandparents of Black children say the protests are a chance to fight for a better future for their children. Breonna Taylor was 26 years old when she was killed by Louisville Metro Police officers, and her death has been especially poignant for Black women.

“That could have been any of us,” said Kayla Williams.

Williams, 27, came to Saturday’s protests with her sister, who is the mother of a 2-year-old daughter.

“It’s not necessarily about us, it’s about our children, our families,” Williams said.

The protests, and more importantly, the pressure that comes with protesting, is necessary to create the future Williams and her sister want.

“We’re just going to keep saying the same message over and over until something sticks in the right people’s minds and they say we need to do something,” Williams said.

The message is all about accountability, getting out the vote and reforming police agencies to promote fairness, equality and justice, Williams said.

As the night waned on and the 9 p.m. curfew imposed by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer crept closer and people began weighing their options: stay and risk arrest, or leave and fight on another day.

Shreeta Waldon brought her 17-year-old niece to protest downtown, and after thinking it over she decided they would leave before 9. 

“I wouldn’t want her to get arrested because we’re out here supporting, and standing in solidarity,” she said. “We’re not doing anything to violate any laws — well, real laws.”

So they left, and many others did too. But not everyone.

Those that remained went for the third night in a row to the First Unitarian Church to seek refuge from the police. There, protesters tried to formulate a plan to march. But after a few hours the crowd grew restless. Some took to the streets.

A car was set on fire, and windows were broken at nearby schools. And Louisville Metro Police officers arrived, prepared to start making arrests.

Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.
Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.