LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Protesters led an hourslong march through Louisville's streets Wednesday, vowing to continue calling for justice for Breonna Taylor after learning that just one of three police officers involved in her death would be criminally charged.
Anger was palpable as the protesters walked through several residential neighborhoods, eventually clashing with a line of police who arrested participants.
Later in the evening, violence erupted as two Louisville police officers were shot in downtown, and around 100 people had been arrested as of early Thursday. The officers sustained non life-threatening injuries, as one underwent surgery and the other was in stable condition, said interim Police Chief Robert Schroeder.
Earlier in the day, Jefferson County Judge Annie O'Connell announced that a grand jury had indicted former Detective Brett Hankison on three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment for firing into an apartment that neighbored Taylor's.
The grand jury declined to bring charges against Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove, who were also involved in the March 13 shooting at Taylor's southern Louisville apartment.
"It's a tragedy. This is an embarrassment, and it's exactly why there have been protests for the last (119) days," said pastor Tim Findley. "This is a disappointing, hurtful, painful day in our city.
"What I just heard amounts to a slap on the wrist for him murdering, for them murdering Breonna Taylor."
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Around 200 people gathered at Jefferson Square Park — which has served as a home base local protests — as the announcement was played on a loudspeaker.
As the decision wrapped up, there was first confusion, then anger from those who had gathered. A few people cried.
“Is that it?” one woman asked.
— Hayes Gardner (@HayesGardner) September 23, 2020
The announcement followed nearly four months of civil unrest in Louisville, where protesters have led mileslong marches, shut down traffic and arranged pop-up street fairs on behalf of Taylor, an unarmed Black woman who was killed during a narcotics search that went awry.
The demonstrations collectively called for an end to police brutality and systemic racism, touching on interlinking issues that disproportionately affect Black residents, such as food insecurity and gentrification.
But through it all, the protesters' main message has been consistent: The officers involved in Taylor's death should be fired, arrested and criminally charged.
"They're still working and still getting paid," Shemaeka Shaw, a community organizer and affordable housing advocate, recently told The Courier Journal. "… That's a slap in the face to a mourning mother who still has to walk through the city knowing the men who killed her daughter" remain on Louisville police's payroll.
Protesters have specifically referenced Mattingly, Cosgrove and Hankison, who fired their weapons at Taylor's apartment, as well as Detective Joshua Jaynes, who swore out the affidavit to get a search warrant for Taylor's apartment and four other homes the night she was killed.
Though Hankison was fired in June for his role in the shooting, Mattingly, Cosgrove and Jaynes remain on administrative reassignment.
“I’m heartbroken," protester Logan Cleaver said Wednesday. "This is not a justice system if it’s not for everybody.”
Soon after the announcement, protesters began marching from the park toward the edges of downtown.
In the days leading up to the indictment, Louisville Metro Police employees had restricted traffic access in a 25-block perimeter around the park so that protesters could safely "express their First Amendment Rights."
But the march quickly left the designated area and passed through several residential neighborhoods.
Emotions ran high through the demonstration, which remained predominately peaceful, with protesters expressing frustrations with both city and state leaders, who they said should have taken actions in Taylor's case sooner.
"We knew this was a possibility, but we didn't believe it," said Stachelle Bussey, a regular at the protests. "... People have been charged with way less evidence, and with all the evidence you had, they just charged one for endangerment, not even for shooting into her apartment but for shooting in other apartments.
"We are in shock. This city has failed us. Our leadership has failed."
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In the midafternoon, protesters made their way toward Bardstown Road, a commercial area lined with independent businesses and restaurants.
Though a handful of people set trashcans on fire and confronted passersby, others encouraged the crowd not to commit vandalism and to remain focused on saying Breonna Taylor's name.
Later, protesters were met by officers who were carrying pepper bullet guns and batons and who refused to let the group pass.
Protesters were pushed from a sidewalk into the road, where several were forcefully arrested. The area cleared as police created a small perimeter with caution tape.
The grand jury's decision closes a chapter for the protesters. But it won't end demonstrations for Taylor and systemic changes.
Thursday marks 120 days of protests in the city.
"This revolutionary movement began with Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, but it has turned into international calls" for racial justice, said Tyra Walker, a co-chair of the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. "We will continue to push for policy change because if we don't change the policies, we will be back here fighting the same fight 50 years from now, if not sooner."
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Breonna Taylor case: Louisville protesters angered over decision