Like so many interactions between young Black men and police, this one started over a basketball hoop. It ended with four arrests, including Rosie Henderson — a protest organizer known for her kind demeanor, calming presence and for caretaking the Breonna Taylor memorial.
The way Louisville Metro Police told it, they arrested four people in Jefferson Square Park on charges including assault, menacing, harassment with physical contact and resisting arrest after “a group of people confronted the officers and wouldn’t clear the street.”
But the arrests rattled protesters who feel police play with a different set rules for different groups.
Henderson’s Attorney, David Mour, said he didn’t see a single officer over the weekend when hundreds of mostly white protesters blocked traffic, and even walked the wrong direction down Market Street. But a half dozen kids playing basketball brought out police Monday evening, he said.
“That’s the dichotomy of what’s going on here,” he said. “There’s a different set of rules for the white, privileged and powerful people vs. the people in the square.”
There’s not ordinarily a basketball hoop at Jefferson Square Park, but on Monday a group that travels around the country in a bus with a basketball hoop on the back stopped by the square.
Livestreamer Tara Bassett captured the scene in a Facebook Live video. A man named Joey said he drives the “Hoop bus,” across the country, “uniting people through basketball.”
Eli Grady, 26, was playing basketball in the street when police arrived. He said tensions rose as police and the crowd argued whether or not players were blocking the street.
A white man in the crowd begins purposely coughing at officers. Others begin to call out, “What law am I breaking?”
Bassett’s livestream footage shows Major Jim Cirillo, First Division Commander, arguing with the group in the street. As a Black man in the crowd yells at him and steps toward him, Cirillo pushes a white man out of the way and charges him to make an arrest.
Two more are arrested in the tumult that followed. LMPD did not release their names, and the Metro Corrections jail log was down for “security issues” Monday evening.
Grady recounted what happened after police arrested a man and woman. “They got her up, slammed her to the ground, twisted her wrist, picked her back up and slammed her back down,” he said.
Then police grabbed Rosie Henderson.
In the video, she’s wearing a red jumpsuit and a leopard print mask, and she walked into the mix as officers were arresting the others. it’s not possible to see in the footage what transpires just before they arrest her, but when they do, an officer comes from behind and covers her mouth with his hand as several officers put her facedown on the ground.
Grady and Bassett said police arrested Henderson while she was trying to get the personal information of one of the other people arrested to help bail them out.
For protesters, the arrest of Henderson is surprising and heartbreaking. She’s beloved around the square, affectionately known as Miss Rosie or Mama Rose. Since protests began, she’s helped coordinate supplies and de-escalate conflicts, Bassett said.
“She provides food, she provides drinks, she provides comfort. She gives a lot of sage advice to people which is to stay out of trouble and not do things that are going to cause problems,” Bassett said.
In the aftermath, Louisville’s new interim Police Chief Yvette Gentry came down to the square to talk with protesters, and she stuck around even when things got tense.
“I can’t imagine how you feel with this tension. You can feel the tension. It ain’t helping nobody,” Gentry said to a group of protesters.
But David Mour, Henderson’s attorney, said that LMPD didn’t do enough to de-escalate the situation before the arrests happened.
Grady, one of the kids who was playing basketball, agreed, and said he believes police act more aggressively toward Black people when they can get away with it.
“I mean of course the police aren’t going to handle people rough in what we call the ‘white areas’; because they don’t want the white people around to see how it really is, how they really treat us,” he said.
Nonetheless, Grady said he remains undeterred by the prospect of police brutality as a protester because, he said, what he faces as a protester is no different than what he faces as a Black man.
Reporter Stephanie Wolf contributed to this story.