LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Speaking before a crowd at the Breonna Taylor memorial in Jefferson Square Park, Until Freedom co-founder Tamika Mallory stressed nonviolence.
It was just before 1 p.m. Wednesday, and hundreds had gathered at the public square – a home base through 119 days of protests downtown – to hear whether criminal charges would be brought against the Louisville Metro Police Department officers who'd shot and killed the unarmed Black woman while serving a search warrant at her south Louisville home.
“We have to understand that we have a responsibility to the rest of this nation and to generations to come that we conduct ourselves, again, not peacefully but nonviolently,” Mallory said, “so that the story that comes out of here is that we are not the murderers, we are not the looters, we are not the burners, we are not the ones, they did it to us, and we are only responding.”
By Thursday morning, the story that reached people around the country and globe was, in fact, one of violence.
Windows had been smashed, small fires had been set and two police officers were shot during hours of protest that traversed downtown and several surrounding neighborhoods, after an announcement that no officers would be indicted for Taylor's death.
Interim LMPD Chief Robert Schroeder said the shooting took place around 8:30 p.m. near the intersection of Brook Street and Broadway downtown.
In a news conference Thursday, he said Maj. Aubrey Gregory was hit in the thigh and was released from a hospital, and officer Robinson Desroches was struck in the abdomen and is recovering from surgery.
Larynzo Johnson is accused in the shooting.
"Last night's situation could have been so much worse for our officers and for the people who were protesting when the gunfire rang out. ... We are extremely fortunate these two officers will recover," Schroeder said.
Activist Adrian Baker, student body president of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, said Wednesday's gunfire does "distract" from the message of the protesters' movement.
"I denounce any violence. But we have the knowledge that this could have been avoided, this type of response could have been avoided," he said.
He called the shooting a "response to injustice."
“We are protesting the injustice of a life being lost already," he said. "And so, just as those police officers lives matter that were shot, we are feeling as if Breonna Taylor’s life does not matter because it’s evident."
The decision not to indict the officers for Taylor's death came from a Jefferson County grand jury after an investigation by Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron.
Though the grand jury charged former detective Brett Hankison on three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment for shooting into a neighboring apartment, it did not charge him or two other Louisville officers who fired their weapons at Taylor's apartment – Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove – with killing the 26-year-old ER technician. The officers returned fire after Mattingly was shot. Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, said he fired one shot, not realizing they were police.
Tamika Palmer, Breonna Taylor's mother, has not spoken publicly since the grand jury indictment but shared an illustration of her daughter Thursday afternoon on Instagram with the hashtag that said, "The system failed Breonna."
Other members of Taylor's family were dismayed by the decision. Some said they were not surprised but "mad as hell." Taylor family attorneys issued a statement calling the grand jury decision "outrageous and offensive to Breonna Taylor's memory."
President Donald Trump spoke briefly about Taylor while departing for Charlotte, North Carolina. Asked what he had to say to Taylor's family, Trump said, “I think it's a sad thing, and I give my regards to the family. I also think it’s so sad what’s happening with everything about that case, including law enforcement. So many people suffering.”
Tensions and emotions were high after the grand jury announcement, and angry protesters marched through neighborhoods east of downtown and back.
On multiple occasions, demonstrators extinguished fires in trash cans that others had lit. Police met marchers with force at the intersection of Bardstown Road and Midland Avenue in the Highlands, arresting more than a dozen people.
Just after 7:30 p.m., someone set fire to wooden boards affixed to the exterior of the Hall of Justice. Police emerged from the building to put it out as protesters lobbed water bottles at them.
Police arrested 127 people through the course of the protests, and Schroeder said 16 "instances of looting" occurred outside the downtown area along Broadway, Preston Highway, Outer Loop and Poplar Level Road.
A 9 p.m. curfew remains in effect through Friday.
Protest regular Aaron Jordan said the grand jury's decision and Louisville's response has "already changed things," as people protest "all over the world."
"People are infuriated. ... It's big for us because we have our disagreements and stuff at the square, but people around the world don't know about that stuff that we deal with day to day," he said. "They just see dedicated protesters, and they want to do their part standing in solidarity."
Bailey Loosemore, @bloosemore. Hayes Gardner, @HayesGardner.
More on the Breonna Taylor case
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Breonna Taylor Louisville protest marred by by violence after decision