Metro Louisville

Donna Rowan stood on the side of the road shouting out her support for local police.

On the other side of the road, another group of people shouted back with a different message, one rooted in a demand for accountability and justice for Breonna Taylor.

Rowan said she doesn’t care much for the people on the other side of the road.

“I think they’re silly,” she said. “If all Black lives matter, why don’t they take care of their self?”

Rowan, 70, was one of hundreds of people who gathered at the River City Fraternal Order of Police Headquarters on Sunday afternoon to show support for police. Her daughter is a sergeant with the Louisville Metro Police Department. Worry is all too common for Rowan.

Kate Howard | wfpl.org

“It’s not been fun to be the mother of a police officer,” she said. “They’re walking around with a target on their back.”  

Some, like Rowan, stood along the road and traded barbs with about 20 people protesting at the event.

Many others, though, stayed in the event, sitting in lawn chairs on a baseball field behind the police union lodge. They found slivers of shade or brought tents of their own to try and beat the sweltering, mid-90 degree heat. Many wore shirts depicting the “thin blue line” American flag or other pro-police messages. Few people wore masks.

The event’s mission was simple: Let police know they are supported. It was sponsored by the police union, the Louisville Metro Police Foundation and Louisville-based nonprofit Supporting Heroes. Uniformed officers or patrol cars from several departments were present at the event: St. Matthews, Jeffersontown, Shively, Jefferson County Sheriff and Louisville Metro Police. 

The rally comes as protests continue in Louisville and across the country demanding accountability for police violence, for racial justice and for a reformation of how cities are policed. And since the event was held on private property, the protesters were not allowed inside.

Jacob Ryan | wfpl.org

Charlton Hopkins was driving home when he saw a crowd gathered on the street. Hopkins, 62, is Black and hasn’t joined the protests downtown that have been ongoing since late May. But he shares the sentiment, and he wanted to show his support for the protesters. He went home, made a sign that read “Black Lives Matter” and came back to join the crowd chanting Breonna Taylor’s name.

“Black lives haven’t mattered for years,” he said. “If they did, then the people around here would have spoken up when stuff was happening.”

He said the “all lives matter” and “blue lives matter” only came about in response to “Black lives matter.”

“Now, suddenly, all lives matter. If all lives matter, why didn’t you care before?” he said.

George Rodman spoke at the event, and told the crowd he empathizes with Breonna Taylor’s parents. His son, Nick Rodman, died in March 2017 while working as a Louisville Metro Police officer.

Taylor was killed by police in March after officers executed a no-knock search warrant at her apartment in southwest Jefferson County. She was shot five times.

“Neither Nick or Breonna got up that morning thinking this was their last day here,” Rodman told the crowd. “These are wounds we will always bear.”

Rodman, who himself retired from LMPD in 2017 after a career as an officer and trainer, said he believes at least 99% of police are well-intentioned, good officers. The other 1%, he said, needs to be rooted out.

He said police must start holding each other accountable to ensure bad officers are driven out of the department and profession, as a whole, can begin to repair its image and standing with the public.

“If there’s a bad apple in the system, it needs to be known,” he said.

Kate Howard | wfpl.org

Rowan, the mother of an LMPD officer, was wearing a shirt that spelled “love” with a pistol as the letter L and handcuffs as the letter E. She agrees with Rodman’s sentiment, but little else when it comes to reforming police.

Sure, good police should call out bad police, she said. But when it comes to police violence, Rowan has little sympathy.

“If they have to hold them down, that’s not the police officer’s fault. That person shouldn’t have resisted,” she said. 

And she shakes her head when she looks across the street to other protesters.

“I’m not against blacks. I have many Black friends and I love them,” she said. “It don’t matter what color they are over there acting stupid. It’s why they’re over there.”

Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.