Demonstrators will gather at Jefferson Square Park this weekend to mark one year since the killing of Breonna Taylor.
Marches weaved through the streets of Louisville every day for much of 2020 after Taylor was shot and killed by Louisville Metro Police during a middle-of-the-night raid at her apartment. But as winter took hold, the on-the-ground presence of protesters faded.
Protest leader Rosie Henderson said that doesn’t mean demonstration efforts are losing steam.
“Just because we’re not out there marching and caravanning, that doesn’t mean that the movement has stopped,” she said. “We have other things to do that’s a part of the movement.”
Henderson became a fixture at local protests, with many at Jefferson Square Park — also known informally as Breonna Square, Injustice Square or, simply, the square — referring to her as Miss Rosie or Mama Rose. On Saturday, protesters plan to return to the square for an afternoon of demonstrations.
Henderson sees the event as a chance to reignite the movement for justice and keep the memory of Taylor alive.
“To the LMPD and the mayor and everyone involved, we’re still going to keep applying pressure,” she said. “But as a whole in the movement, we want to unify. That’s a day that we’re going to come together and unify as one.”
None of the officers involved in the raid, authorized by a no-knock warrant, were charged for Taylor’s death. One officer, Brett Hankison, was fired and charged with wanton endangerment for shooting into neighboring apartments. Two additional officers have since been fired. All three are appealing their firings, though hearings for those appeals have not yet begun.
Henderson said the lack of legal consequences is hurtful. Without some sort of closure, the pain of Taylor’s death still feels fresh.
“That was a slap in the face, and that was not justice,” she said. “It’s like they don’t care. And they didn’t get held accountable for what they did… We’re tired, and it’s time to take a stand.”
Christopher 2X is a local civil rights leader who has been in touch with Taylor’s family since the day after she was killed. He said he still thinks about the days surrounding her death.
“I vividly remember being invited into that space where she lost her life a few days after her killing and getting a phone call the next day after the killing from her family,” he said. “Pain was on display, not only in the way that it’s been described in many storylines, but the visual pain that occurred inside that apartment dwelling.”
2X hopes young people take a stand at Saturday’s protest and beyond.
While he would’ve liked to see the justice system work in favor of Taylor and her family, 2X said the courts shouldn’t be viewed as the only avenue for change. Instead, he said young people should find creative ways to rally the city together.
“I believe young people and others have the power for change and a continual change by using their voices, using their intellect to try to engage those who are connected to situations that they feel frustrated about,” 2X said. “To at least meet them in a way that they are heard they’re respected, and maybe move that needle in a direction where change can evolve and become a reality.”
Henderson said she and other protesters already have plans in the works to evolve the ongoing justice movement.
One fellow protest figure, Shameka Parrish-Wright, has announced her candidacy for next year’s mayoral election. Henderson said demonstrators will also continue being politically active by pushing the state to pass Breonna’s Law, which would ban no-knock warrants and require officers to wear body cameras during search warrants.
Earlier this week, the Kentucky legislature advanced the Republican-sponsored Senate Bill 4, which would put restrictions on no-knock warrants instead of banning them outright. Lawmakers also discussed Breonna’s Law during the meeting, but took no action.
“We’re going after these elected officials’ seats, and we’re going to keep marching until they hear us and do something about it,” Henderson said. “Don’t say they’re going to do something about it, this is going to happen, we may sign this… We want some bills signed, right now. We’re tired of hearing excuses.”
The advocacy group Until Freedom is also pushing for accountability from Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine. Protesters gathered outside Wine’s office near the square on Thursday.
Until Freedom co-founder Linda Sarsour said now that charges against Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker have been permanently dropped, Wine has no conflict in the case. Walker was with Taylor the night police shot and killed her during a raid, and fired at them as they broke down her door after midnight. He later said he believed the police were intruders.
Last May, Wine recused himself from any investigation of police actions the night of the raid because he was prosecuting Walker at the time.
“We are here to renew calls for justice for Breonna Taylor and call on [Commonwealth’s] Attorney Tom Wine to prosecute the police officers that murdered Breonna Taylor,” Sarsour said.
A representative for Wine did not respond to a request for comment sent Thursday.
Saturday’s rally begins at 1 p.m. Protesters will start marching at 3, and food will be handed out at 4:30 p.m..
On Sunday, Christopher 2X Game Changers and Until Freedom are hosting a healing event for Louisville residents who have been affected by gun violence. The event will be held at 2500 W. Montgomery St. at 3 p.m.
A full schedule of this weekend’s events can be found on Until Freedom’s website.
Breonna Taylor was killed one year ago this week. Here is WFPL’s series remembering her.