More than an hour and a half before Louisville’s curfew went into effect, plainclothes police officers seized and destroyed a pile of protesters’ supplies, including bottles of water and milk in downtown. As they raided the supplies, people nearby screamed that they were for peaceful protesters. Within seconds, Kentucky State Police in riot gear moved in to block the officers from the people whose belongings they were taking.
The incident, caught on video and tweeted by a reporter, swiftly went viral.
It was the start of the third consecutive night of protests in Louisville related to the police killing of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor. Large-scale protests — often featuring violence from demonstrators and law enforcement — condemning police brutality against Black people swept the nation Saturday night. In Louisville, law enforcement exhibited less patience toward protesters than on previous nights, with a 9 p.m. curfew imposed and the National Guard called in to help enforce it.
Many social media users criticized the seizure of the supplies, comparing it to looters who destroyed property in Louisville Friday night.
So… theft and destruction of property is okay when police are the criminals?
— meg (@MegAndBubba) May 31, 2020
Police have used tear gas and other non-lethal methods to try to disperse the crowds each night of the protests. Some people use milk or water to try to stem the pain of the tear gas.
Mayor Greg Fischer responded to the incident during a news conference after the curfew was in effect.
“Interspersed with that water and milk, there were other materials. There were mason jars full of flammable material, other materials that could not be identified that could have been used to be harmful to other protesters, also have been used to be harmful to law enforcement,” he said. “So the best decision for the safety of everybody was to remove those materials.”
Jessie Halladay, a spokeswoman for Louisville Metro Police, told WFPL News in an email LMPD had been watching the preparation of supplies brought in by demonstrators in recent days.
“With those observations as well as information gathered from sources in the crowd, we determined items in those supplies were being utilized by some to enable unlawful activity. We have seen these same materials used in the past two days to destroy property and injure officers. I believe all materials thought to be hazardous were removed safely from the area,” she wrote.
She declined to provide further detail about what hazardous materials were believed to be present. She also declined to explain how such materials were moved safely.
In the video, officers can be seen throwing and breaking bottles and boxes.
After the mayor’s briefing, which was also streamed on Facebook, a woman named Aprile Hearn who claimed to be the owner of the supplies wrote in a Facebook post that Fischer was wrong about the supplies.
“Mayor Greg Fischer literally just lied on me and my daughter say that the items in the video that’s circulating of the police throwing our stuff in their trucks contained flammable substance in mason jars,” Hearn wrote. “THAT WAS A WHOLE LIE!”
The ACLU of Kentucky also expressed skepticism regarding the appropriateness of the action.
.@LMPD spokesperson claims it was necessary for plain clothes officers to drive an unmarked truck into a park, followed by @kystatepolice in full riot gear, to steal water and destroy milk jugs before curfew went into effect. Watch video of incident: https://t.co/wCJWn7PNC2 https://t.co/nzM9B0hswc
— ACLU of Kentucky (@ACLUofKY) May 31, 2020