Metro Louisville

Down a set of stone steps and in front of the arched bridge in Tyler Park, a crowd of about 500 people gathered around a picnic table on Saturday.

On top of that picnic table stood State Rep. Charles Booker.

“As soon as we break down our silos, and come out of our corners and see one another as human beings and family, we are unstoppable,” Booker said into a megaphone.

The plan was to march from Tyler Park to Jefferson Square, which throughout this summer has become known as Injustice Square, or sometimes Breonna Taylor Square. Sadiqa Reynolds, president of the Louisville Urban League, State Senator Morgan McGarvey and Congressman John Yarmuth also addressed the crowd before the march began.

Booker gave a special thanks to people who were demonstrating for the first time. He told the crowd they were part of a historical moment in Louisville.

“This is our opportunity to move mountains, cause I’m sick and tired of seeing my city looking like this,” Booker said.

In fact, many of the folks were marching for the first time. Marc Murphy, a political cartoonist who organized the march, said his goal was to bring people into the fold. 

“I asked people to raise their hand if it was their first march, literally their first protest march, and, I don’t know, maybe half the crowd raised their hand. It was a lot,” Murphy said.

For 135 days, demonstrations have touched nearly every part of this city. They left their mark on 26th and Broadway, where David McAtee was killed during the first weekend of protest. They were felt in the Highlands, where Saturday’s march started. It was only a few weeks ago, as news broke that only one of the three LMPD officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor would face any charges, that LMPD arrested 13 people just blocks away. 

Each event sent ripples throughout the community that led many people to Tyler Park.

It was Rudy Spencer’s first march. Spencer attended with Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Kentuckiana and said the event was a good chance to get new people involved, especially some of the children his organization serves.

“The majority of the littles that we serve are youth of color, and so we wanted to be sure that we elevated the importance of that black lives matter in our community,” Spencer said.

But there’s another reason Spencer and his organization marched on Saturday. 

“Tyler Gerth, who was so tragically killed down at the square, he is a big brother,” Spencer said. 

“His family is here with us marching, and his little brother is going to be there as well,” he said. “They are going to meet us at the square, kind of to honor or memorialize Tyler and his commitment to racial justice.” 

Gerth was killed in Jefferson Square in June — another moment from a summer of loss and hope that has changed the city, Spencer hopes, forever.

“As a Louisvillian and a Black man in this community I think it’s really important that we are able to elevate this moment,” Spencer said. “Louisville is the epicenter of this moment.”

It was Laura Parker’s second time marching. Parker said she’s glad to see a large demonstration like this now, months into the movement.

“It truly gives me hope that we’re still hanging on and bringing attention to this critical issue of justice,” Parker said.

Parker is a teacher, and said she had a political awakening when educators like her faced off with Governor Matt Bevin over pensions in 2018. That experience, plus the protests of this summer, showed Parker that something needed to change. 

“We have a double standard,” Parker said. “White people are treated differently than Black people. Black people are treated differently than white people, especially in the justice system.”

Of course, not everyone at the event was a first timer. As the demonstrators marched through downtown, Nancy Jakubiak waited for them at Jefferson Square. Jakubiak is 71, and health issues kept her from walking. 

She’s been an activist since 1987, taking part in protests from Louisville to Latin America. She demonstrated outside Daniel Cameron’s house in August.

Jakubiak was happy to see new faces in the crowd, especially young people and first-time marchers adding their voices to the calls for justice.

“We were at Tyler park and we saw all those people,” Jakubiak said. “And it was like, the whole… another world is possible, and I can almost hear it breathing.”