Metro Louisville

Three people were injured by gunfire in Baxter Park, where a Black militia group from out of state was gathered, after what sounded like a gunshot was fired around 1 p.m.

The group, known as the “Not F***ing Around Coalition” (NFAC), had lined up in the park on South 12th Street Saturday morning, while right-wing militia and Black Lives Matter protesters waited downtown.

Footage by livestreamers showed that near the middle of a group of armed militia members wearing all black, a shot was fired. After a few moments of chaos the members fanned out and kneeled on the ground as police and medical personnel went in to treat the victims.

According to a statement from Louisville Metro Police Chief Robert Schroeder, three people were struck by gunfire “as the result of a discharge of someone’s gun” who was participating in the demonstration.

“All involved are members of the NFAC and there are no outstanding suspects,” Schroeder said. “The investigation remains on-going.”

He called it a “tragic situation that could have been much worse” and encouraged anyone exercising their Second Amendment rights to do so responsibly.

Dozens of people had lined the park to watch the militia, including Roger Dhahabu, who says he heard a gunshot and then heard afterward that two people were injured. He says it has remained peaceful throughout. “I came out here for the unity,” he said.

The group planned to begin its heavily armed march into downtown around noon but hadn’t left yet when the apparent gunshot was fired.

Meanwhile, 50 to 60 right-wing militia members associated with a local Three Percenters group lined up on the east side of Fifth Street. Those demonstrators were also armed, with most wearing camouflage and some wearing body armor.

Louisville Metro Police in riot gear set up barricades to keep the two militias on opposite sides of Fifth Street. There were some minor confrontations Saturday morning with protesters associated with neither militia, who came and lined up on the barrier on the west side of Fifth Street and chanted “Black lives matter.” At least one person has already been arrested.

In the backdrop of this setup is Jefferson Square Park, renamed Injustice Square by protesters and the site of a large, evolving Breonna Taylor memorial. It was rebuilt ahead of this event to make sure the focus this morning was on Breonna Taylor, according to Rosie Henderson.

Marches Announced Last Week

Last weekend, John Fitzgerald Johnson, who goes by the name “Grandmaster Jay,” announced his recently formed Black militia would march in Louisville to raise awareness about the investigation into the death of Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed by police in her home during a raid.

Johnson’s militia marched through Stone Mountain, Georgia, outside of Atlanta on the Fourth of July, calling for the removal of a Confederate monument.

J.J. MacNab, an expert on extremism with George Washington University, said Johnson has made anti-Semitic comments, but recently scrubbed them from his social media accounts.

On Friday, during an impromptu press conference outside of Metro Hall, Johnson said he would like Black people to file for liberation with the International Court of Justice to have their own nation within the United States.

“Then once we’ve done that, we now form the united Black nation, now we can petition the World Court and the U.N. for assistance,” Johnson said.

Following NFAC’s announcement, right wing extremist militias associated with the Three Percenters announced they would come to Louisville to provide “security.” Among the groups who said they would be coming were the III% Security Force led by Chris Hill, who the Southern Poverty Law Center says is a well-known leader within the Three Percenter movement.

Three Percenters claiming allegiance to the movement have made news after law enforcement charged them in bombings and weapon-related offenses in recent years, including bombing a mosque in Minnesota in 2017.

In an interview with WFPL News, Hill said he believes the NFAC are extremists willing to kidnap and kill police officers.

“We’re just going to be there to do what we do and look out for the people. Protecting people and property because we believe the [NFAC] are terrorists,” Hills said.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.
Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.
Kate Howard is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.